As the old cliche goes, the only thing harder than winning a championship is defending it.
That proved to be true for the Napanee AFW Construction Express, who saw their quest for back-to-back national titles cut short with an early playoff round exit at the U19 Canadian Fast Pitch Championship, held in Owen Sound.
After going 5-3 in the preliminary round, the Express entered Saturday’s playoff round as the sixth seed, with no second life safety net.
Taking on the Newfoundland Selects in a must-win, the Express fell short in an 11-3, five inning loss.
Napanee had jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Tucker Firth drove in James Martell with a grounder to second.
The Selects answered with two in the top of the second, but the Express’ Brendan Hagerman responded with a solo home run over the centrefield wall.
That was as close as the Express would get however, as a couple of key errors help to fuel a three-run top of the third for the Selects. They tacked on five more in the fourth to put the game out of reach. Firth cranked a home run to centre to cut the deficit to 10-3, but the Express ran out of steam from there. Napanee’s two home runs stood as their only two hits in the game.
Firth finished the tournament with a team high eight RBI to go with three home runs and a .526 batting average. Hagerman and Robbie Barker both drove in six, Brock Fencott five.
Connor Brooks was 2-1 from the mound with a 3.63 ERA, striking out 35 in 17.1 innings. Andrew Vanboekel was 2-2 with a 3.17 ERA, striking out 22 in 17.2 innings.
The Belmore Sting finished as bronze medalists while Ontario’s Shallow Lake defeated Saskatchewan’s Delisle Pride in the gold medal game.