Letters of Intent
By David Kaplan
For Jonathan Martin and the Quebec Blue squad, Saturday’s Tournament 12 championship game was a chance at redemption.
The team, which finished as the runner-up during last year’s inaugural tournament, got off to a rocky start in this year’s event losing its first game to Prairies Purple by a score of 10-1.
Quebec regained its composure and went undefeated following that rout to securing its spot in the championship game. Then in the finale, the Blue showed even more grit, rallying in the fifth inning to defeat B.C. Orange 2-1.
Martin, who produced the winning RBI when he hit a perfectly placed single up the middle in the fifth inning, was on last year’s squad that fell just short.
“Last year, we wanted to win this game and didn’t pull it off. I hit a home run in the final, but we lost,” said Martin, who was playing in his last career Tournament 12 game. “This year we won and it feels really good.”
Things were not looking very promising for the Blue early in the game.
Starting pitcher Jeremie Briere, who had only thrown one inning in the tournament prior to getting the nod, allowed a run in the first and then walked consecutive batters in the second before getting the hook for reliever Mathieu Denault-Gauthier.
The decision proved to be a good one as Denault-Gauthier blanked B.C. Orange over the next four innings, surrendering only two hits in the process.
The right-hander, who plays for the Patriote Rive Sud, believes his success was related directly to the number of quality strikes that he threw early in the count.
“When the count starts at 1-1, always getting the first strike against every hitter is key,” said Denault-Gauthier, following the game.
Coach Denis Boucher, who was an assistant for Quebec last year, was quite pleased with his young relief pitcher’s performance.
“He was great again coming out of the bullpen, getting up on the mound throwing all of those strikes, and made good pitches with good sink, his breaking ball he was throwing for strikes and he was keeping the hitters off balance,” said Boucher.
“Add in that the guys made some great plays defensively and it was another great outing.”
While both defences played very tidy baseball, one play towards the end of the game stood out as a pivotal moment for the Quebec squad.
With the Blue already leading 2-1 with no outs in the sixth inning, B.C.’s Nicolas Favaro reached first on an error.
What followed next was a 3-6-1 double play — one of the more rare and most difficult double plays in baseball to execute — that had Denault-Gauthier sprinting to first base in order to cover the bag and complete the play.
“When somebody gets on base with no outs, there is a lot of pressure on you,” said Denault-Gauthier. “The pitch went well and all that I had to do was catch the ball, throw it to second and run over to first base.”
Denault-Gauthier’s counterpart, B.C.’s Clark Grisbook, had a very solid outing as well, fanning five Quebec hitters through four innings.
However, Quebec only needed one shaky inning from the righty, as it loaded-up the bases with none out in the fifth and manufactured both of its runs to secure the squad’s first title in this tournament.
In Tournament 12’s first two years, Quebec has proven itself to be a perennial contender and a hotbed for some of Canada’s most talented baseball youth.
Martin, who says that the game-winning RBI was one of the highlights of his young career to this point, would like to see this regional trend continue.
“I’m not going to be there next year,” said Martin. “But I hope that Quebec will be good again.”