CORNER BROOK So, just how big is tonight’s Game 3 of the best-of-five Corner Brook Molson Senior Baseball League final between the West Side Monarchs and Veitch’s Ultramar Hawks?
“Huge, huge, huge,” said Monarchs’ Stephen Shepherd. “This is all about who gets the leg up and forces the other team to be in an elimination game on Thursday.”
After splitting the opening two games of the series — the Monarchs taking the first game 4-1 on Friday, the Hawks rebounding for a 9-7 win on Sunday — the proverbial pendulum will swing in the favour of one side tonight.
This game won’t decide who wins the series, but could still play a pivotal role in that.
“You always want to be going up 2-1,” said Hawks’ Perry Alexander. “If you’re up 2-1 and you play a terrible Game 4, it’s no big deal. You always want to leave yourself an out.”
Even with a nine-day break between games, the Monarchs came out rust-free for Game 1, cruising to the win behind the arm of pitching ace Michael Tavenor.
“We were wondering how we were going to be, how rusty we were going to be,” said Shepherd. “But we also had some big lay-offs this summer with the Barons and stuff, so we’ve dealt with it.
“We came out hitting the ball off Frank Humber and Tavvy pitched a great game,” he continued. “We had a lot of opportunities to really blow that game out of the water.”
Once the opening game was secured, the Monarchs made the decision to bring in Dave Oxford for Game 2, a guy who hadn’t pitched in a while because of work commitments. This was done specifically to save Adam Warren for tonight’s contest, where he will likely be up against Darren Colbourne.
“We weren’t being cocky, we wanted to win that game,” Shepherd said. “When you’re dealing with short arms, you’ve got to be realistic ... the idea of sweeping the Hawks in three was probably not going to be that easy to do.
“We didn’t want to go bang-bang and throw both guns out there back to back right away,” he added.
Having the 1-0 advantage allowed the Monarchs that luxury.
“(The Hawks) had to go with (Colin Wood) in that game,” Shepherd said. “Even though he’s hurt, he’s probably still their No. 1 pitcher and they needed to win that game.”
According to Alexander, the Hawks could have made some plays defensively in Game 1 that would have changed all of that. He said they knew they’d have to play perfect defence and win a 1-0 or 2-1 game against Tavenor.
“If we had made some plays in the field, it could’ve easily been, in my mind, 1-1 going into the seventh inning,” he said. “Then who knows what would happen there?
“We gave them a couple of outs and didn’t play as sound on defence as we needed to play to beat them.”
Though the importance of tonight’s Game 3 isn’t lost on Alexander, he doesn’t want to make too big a deal of it either.
“With the experience we’ve got, if we do fall behind, we’ve been there before,” he said. “It won’t be the end of the world if we don’t end up winning that game.”
The Hawks and Monarchs get reacquainted 7 p.m. tonight at Jubilee Field.