It’s easy to cheer for a team that has heart.
That’s why the Corner Brook Barons had fans at Jubilee Field Saturday and Sunday for the Senior A provincial championship.
Coming back from a weekend sweep at the hands of the St. John’s Capitals in the capital city to fall behind 3-0, the Barons could have easily packed it in. After just five runs in three games, including a shutout in Game 3, it was the bats that showed this could quickly become a series.
An early 7-0 Game 4 lead and the right arm of Mike Tavenor ensured a Game 5. The Saturday night contest was when the observers turned fans turned believers. There was once again an early chance for the Barons to lay down. Frank Humber was getting hit hard in the first couple of innings and the Caps took a 2-0 lead. The bats again came to life, the hometown answered back immediately and Humber got stronger with every pitch.
The Barons best player this weekend, Travis Taylor doubled and scored on a Grant Vincent single in the bottom of the seventh to walk off the Game 5 victory.
This is when the series got interesting. The Barons pitching depth was their Achilles heel this year. Not having the extra arms of a year ago as provincial B winners, as player/coach Darren Colbourne had said heading into the second weekend.
Who would step up behind their aces Tavenor and Humber to give the Barons a chance at a second title in a row? Adam Warren and Ryan Harnett’s names were on the tongues of most fans, but Colbourne called his own name for the second time in the series. There were doubters, and they proved right, but I commend the veteran for putting it on his shoulders. It takes a lot of guts as a coach to be willing to accept the blame that would come with this move, and it showed greater character to remove himself in the second inning when it was apparent he didn’t have his best stuff.
To extend the series to a sixth game after trailing 3-0, Colbourne deserves a lot of credit. His moves in the first two games at home could be questioned, but both led to wins. When your team gets shutout in a clincher, it didn’t matter who pitched the game. You don’t win any games, you don’t score. Warren’s bullpen appearance showed he should have gotten a chance at a start, but his hearty performance kept hope in the hometown fans until a two-run homer from Gerry Stone sealed the series in the seventh.
Looking back on the series, the Barons proved they are at the same level as the perennial champion Capitals. It took everything the Caps had — including flying in a couple of the players who stayed home with a 3-0 lead for Sunday’s clincher — to close out the series. Too bad those couple of Pasadena guys — Greg Barry and Scott Goosney didn’t feel a western Newfoundland obligation to pitch for the Barons — things would probably be much different.
With contributions from a young core, combined with the veteran leadership, the future of Barons baseball is strong. If they keep showing the heart they did this weekend, they will have this fan in the stands watching.
Cory Hurley is a reporter/photographer with The Western Star. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.