The Napanee Spud’s Restaurant U16 Express secured their spot at Nationals with authority this weekend, going undefeated at the OASA Bantam Eliminations in Grafton.
Not only did Napanee go unbeaten, but they outscored their opponents 38-1 over five games, their lone run against an unearned one.
With their first place finish the Express clinched the top Ontario seed at the U16 Canadian Fast Pitch Championships, which will take place in Saskatoon, Sask. July 31-Aug. 4.
Connor Brooks allowed just five hits in 28 innings at Eliminations, while striking out 57 batters en route to picking up the tournament’s Top Pitcher award.
“He pitched the whole weekend and had a great tournament,” said Express coach Chris Boutilier of Brooks. “He threw two no hitters.”
Brooks allowed just one hit in the finals as the Express defeated Haldimand 10-0 in four innings. Aiden Reddick drove in three runs while Ty Franklin, Lachlan Stover and Brooks each drove in a pair. Ty Branchaud added one to pace the mercy rule victory.
Napanee advanced to the finals by defeating the Simcoe Braves 6-0 on the strength of 15 hits. Stover drove in a pair while Franklin, Branchaud and Reddick each knocked in a run. Brooks allowed just two hits over seven shutout innings.
Brooks’ two no-hitters came back-to-back on Saturday, defeating the Devils 7-0 and Haldimand 7-0.
The lone run the Express allowed came in their tournament opener on Friday, when Shallow Lake pushed across a run in the second inning. Shallow Lake held a 1-0 lead until the Express bats came to life in the fourth.
Franklin drew a walk to lead off the inning and scored on a double by Brooks. Jacob Boutilier drove in two with a double to give the Express a 3-1 lead. Reddick added a sac fly to make it a four run inning. Napanee tacked on four more runs over the final two innings for an 8-1 victory and never looked back from there.
Heading into the tournament the Express had only played a handful of their opponents but expected to face some tough competition as they aimed to earn the right to represent Ontario at Nationals.
“We kind of knew what we were getting into,” said Boutilier. “Our sticks were really good throughout the weekend.”
Reddick led the way with eight RBI at the tournament, followed by Brooks and Stover with six. Franklin and Brooks each had one home run. Gavin Brooks, playing up a level from the U14 club, had seven hits in 12 at bats for a .583 average. As a team, the Express hit .463 with contributions up and down the lineup.
The Express will look to stay sharp at Provincials, which will take place July 20-21 before they head out west for Nationals. About half the team returns from last year’s club, which earned bronze at Nationals.