Athletes of the week: Bantam Select Hornets

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Main photo: YSBA champion Bantam Select Muskoka Hornets (back from left) coach Keith Courville, Archer Westgarth, Ethan Nixon, Jake Chilton, Amrit Brown, Winston Young, Hannah Collett, head coach Gunnar Mullar, coach Andrew Collett, Zack Patterson; (front from left) coach James Westgarth, Mark Holm, Nolan Quesnelle, Isaiah Nikiforuk, Aiden Courville, Damon Harriss and Jake Patterson (photo courtesy of Shelley Westgarth)

Thanks to a stellar season, the U15 Bantam Hornets are competing in the provincial championships this weekend.

The team competed in the York Simcoe Baseball Association (YSBA) Playdowns in Markham from August 9 to 11 where they won their division, defeating 13 other teams in their loop including the team who finished first in their league, Orangeville, with a gigantic lead of 20-6.

No other Hornets team has won the championship in the YSBA playoffs.

With their win and accomplishments as a select team, finishing in second place at the end of the regular summer ball season, the Bantam Hornets earned the right to represent York Simcoe at the provincial championships in London, Ontario over the Labour Day weekend against 11 other teams from across Ontario that qualified.

The YSBA tournament began on Friday, August 9 against Thornhill. “Nolan Quesnelle started on the bump for Muskoka and working closely with our catcher, Damon Harriss, ‘RED’ threw a complete game, allowing only one run for Thornhill and secured us the first win at the playoffs,” said Coach Gunnar Muller.

Saturday morning of the tournament, the Bantam Hornets faced off against the Markham Mariners, another team close in skill to the Hornets as they finished their season in third place. “It began as a close game with Winston Young pitching and Zack Patterson providing some solid defense in centre field. We began to run away with the game and locked it up with some big hits by Amrit Brown and Jake Chilton,” said Muller.

On Saturday afternoon, the Hornets took on Orangeville, the team to beat. Orangeville finished the season at the top of the league and were the only team other than the Hornets with an undefeated run to that point at the YSBA playoffs.

Coach Muller said, “We had our young stud hurler, Mark Holm, launching nasty stuff at their hitters. But Orangeville is a team of big, second-year lads (Muskoka is predominantly a team of first-year players) and despite tight infield defense from Archer Westgarth and Aiden Courville, we could not quiet their bats and lost a close game in the end.”

In closing out their Saturday at the YSBA playoffs, the Hornets had two wins and only one loss so they qualified to play in the semi-final game.

Sunday morning’s semi-final game was against the Midland Twins. During the Hornets regular season, Midland was a team who had fought hard so the Bantams knew they were in for a battle. “Ethan Nixon started on the bump and confounded the Midland hitters with his finesse and strategy and we quickly pulled away and ended up with a relatively easy win,” Muller said.

Winning in the semi-finals advanced the Hornets to the YSBA championship game. As the team expected, they met Orangeville once again to bat it out for the trophy along with the opportunity to participate in the provincial playoffs over the Labour Day weekend.

Coach Muller said that “tournament play is a grind” as he described the players out on the dusty field under a scorching sun for an entire weekend. “By the last game on the last day, players are playing hurt, arms are aching and it’s a challenge to dig deep and to find the energy and composure to keep making the plays.”

The coaching staff had been careful with their key pitchers and were optimistic that they had healthy arms to bring out the best against their undefeated foe. “Winston Young and Mark Holm both pitched their hearts out; outfielders Hannah Collett and Jacob Patterson were running down every deep fly ball that the big Orangeville
sluggers were pounding out to the fence; and a stellar snag at shortstop by Isaiah Nikiforuk followed by a throw to  first base clenching the game and title for us late in the afternoon,” said Muller. The Muskoka Hornets were YSBA Champs for the first time.

Good luck to the U15 Bantam Hornets as they compete in the provincial championships this weekend!

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