Story by FastPitch West
July 4, 2013, The Sooke Loggers from Sooke (“Sook”) British Colombia won their fourth consecutive tournament of the 2013 season, knocking off the number 5 ranked team in the world, the California A’s, 9-6 in the single elimination championship game Sunday, June 30, 2013 at Sportsplex, Santee near San Diego California.
Brian Banner led the way for the loggers with a home run and two singles to ignite the Logger offense while 23-year-old youngster Scott Lieph (pronounced “Life”) combined with 43-year-old veteran Rich Haldane for the win. Lieph started again, and went six strong innings against the powerhouse California offense, managing to keep hitters off the base paths in the fourth and fifth innings, then handing the ball off to Haldane to close out the final two frames.
Banner got things started for the Loggers in the second inning of the title game with a two-run blast over the right-field fence. The A’s rallied back with a four-run outburst in the second inning to take a four to lead, only to surrender it an inning later, when A’s shortstop Kevin Schellenberg doubled home Bob Raustenhausler and Marcus Tan, and followed them home on a two run homer by Nate Nukunuki.
The A’s lead was short-lived, as the Logger offense continued to get runners aboard, delivering key hits to keep the pressure on starter Lucas Mata. Mata gave way to reliever Josh Johnson in the fifth, but reentered the game in the fifth when Johnson got into trouble.
The Logger offense turned the f4-2 deficit into an 8-4 lead, combining hits and a couple of A’s miscues, and held it with strong pitching from starting pitcher Scott Lieph.
The A’s added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings on solo, opposite field home runs by Nate Devine and Matt Palazzo, but were unable to put any runners aboard in front of them to do much damage.
Skipper Len Banner went to his veteran Rich Haldane, to close things out in the final frames, while the Loggers added another insurance run late, to seal the 9-6 win.
The Loggers became the first team in the tournaments four year history to defeat the California A’s, and prevent them from winning their fourth consecutive title.
The A’s came into the tournament ranked number 5 in the most recent ISC World Tournament rankings, while the Sooke Loggers entered as the number 8 ranked team. The British Columbia club started the preseason ranked 25th, moving up steadily since then on the strength of their three prior tournament wins. The California Cclassic title marks a high point for the Loggers thus far in the early 2013 season and makes them a serious contender at the ISC world tournament in August, 2013.
The Loggers continue the long history of top flight men’s fastball teams from British Columbia. Headed up by Skipper Len Banner, they are comprised of players from a couple of other top teams which had shuttered their operations after the 2009 season, the Vancouver Grey Sox and Aspen Interiors. The nucleus of the team is built around brother’s Nick and Andrew Mederich, who provide plenty of offense and speed, and supplanted by catcher Brian Banner, a member of Team Canada’s 40 man roster and veteran Dan Whiteford (Victoria Travellers, Vancouver Gray Sox), who has also spent time in the Team Canada player pool.
The pitching staff is comprised of young up-and-comer, 23-year-old right hander Scott Lieph, who showed good velocity and great movement on his pitches, along with veteran Rich Haldane, who has led Great Britain at three consecutive ISF world championships. The roster is well-balanced, with a combination of veterans, and good crop of youngsters, like outfielder Kyle Kowick.
The Sooke Loggers first year was 2010 playing in a league in Victoria BC (which is 20 miles east of Sooke.). In 2010 and 2011, the Loggers played in the Western Canadians, grabbing a bronze in 2010 and gold in 2011, before moving up to the open level in the ISC World Tournament at Midland Michigan in 2012. The Loggers entered that tournament ranked 13th, finishing 14th.
The squad is sponsored player Chad Bryden, and also self-fund. The win over the highly touted California A’s puts the Loggers among the elite teams in the game today.
The California A’s dominated their other competition on the weekend, showing a potent offense capable of generating runs by the handful, and stellar defense and speed which is the cornerstone of their club. Their 2012 ace Sean Whitten has departed, replaced by one of the worlds best, Argentine Lucas Mata. In his first real work since the ISF world championships earlier this year, Mata pitched well, including an 11 strikeout, three good performance against the number 12 ranked Si Senor Pueblo Bandits on Saturday. The A’s lineup appears stronger than last season, with three key additions in the form of New Zealand Black Sox gold medalist Nate Nukunuku, and team USA’s talented, versatile player/pitcher Josh Johnson, and power hitting Nate Devine, who returns to the squad after a years hiatus. Nukunuku played second base while Johnson pitched and played in the outfield. Devine spend time on the weekend as the designated player, first baseman, and left fielder, giving the California coaching staff plenty of flexibility and options with his lineup. The lineup boasts players from top to bottom with national team experience.