Orillia River Sharks reign at World Series

July 16, 2007

Orillia, ON

(Re printed with permission)

Orillia Packet and Times 

Orillia River Sharks reign at World Series

Alex Cruickshank
Sports - Monday, July 16, 2007 Updated @ 12:26:08 AM

For the first time in the 10-year history of the event, the World Series of Fastball championship trophy is staying north of the border.

The Orillia Quaker River Sharks became the first Canadian-based team to win the coveted championship when they defeated Patsy’s of New York 5-1 in yesterday afternoon’s final at Kitchener Park.

“It’s always nice to win,” River Sharks second baseman Blair Ezekiel enthused. “That team we just faced (Patsy’s) and these teams all weekend, they are the top teams in the world. Some are ranked in the top five, so to come out and take this tournament is big for our club.”

Ezekiel helped power the River Shark offence, belting two solo home runs in the championship game en route to being named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Afterwards, he played down his contribution, preferring instead to focus on the team’s achievement.

“Accolades are nice but as long as we get the win and the team does all the right things.

..that’s the main thing,” he said. “I’m just glad that we won and that I was able to contribute...”

The River Sharks built an early 2-0 lead, and appeared to be in complete control as Orillia starter Frank Cox mowed his way through the Patsy’s lineup. Of the eight batters he faced to start the contest, Cox struck out seven and induced a weak fly-ball back to the mound to record the eighth out.

However, Cox experienced some tightness in his pitching shoulder and, after conceding a solo home run followed by a walk, was forced to leave the game.

“I’d hurt myself a little bit warming up for the first game this morning,” he said. “I was trying to throw with something a little bit extra ... I wanted to give my team a shot to win.”

Ryan Brand came in for the injured Cox and picked up where his teammate left off, holding Patsy’s scoreless for the remainder of the game.

“We pitch as a committee,” Brand said. “Frank (Cox) is our main guy but we have to step it up and fill in the spots where we have to and where we can. When there’s an injury, you have to step it up.”

The River Sharks gave their pitcher some additional run support as centre-fielder Ryan Wolfe came around to score on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the third and then Ezekiel and third baseman Glen Ormsby hit solo shots to round out the scoring.

The World Series of Fastball championship helped validate the hype surrounding the River Sharks, who entered this season as the International Fastball Congress’s No. 1 ranked team.

“Being ranked No. 1 right out of the gate is tough,” Brand said. “We stumbled a bit in the last big tournament but we got right back on the horse. Right back where we should be. Right on top.”

The River Sharks advanced to the championship game courtesy a 6-0 win over the Midland, Mich. Explorers in the quarter-finals and a 6-4 win over the Jarvis Merchants in the semifinals.

The playoff round was expanded from six to eight teams after rain forced the cancellation of all but two games scheduled for Saturday. But despite the wet weather a day earlier, the fans came out in droves Sunday to see who would be crowned champion.

“The crowds were amazing,” Ezekiel said. “I’ve never been to a tournament where the crowds are this big, even at the World’s. Of all the games I’ve played, this is the most people I’ve seen out to a championship game.”

Added River Shark vice-president and tournament organizer Paul Barnetson, “Today we came in not knowing if we’d get any fans coming back into the park and, in all honesty ... we may have had our best Sunday ever.”

The River Sharks will now shift their focus to the ISC’s World Tournament scheduled for Aug. 10-18 in Kitchener.

“Now we’ll go through the next couple of hoops and work towards the World Championship,” Barnetson said.

said. “We’re one step closer.”



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