HYDE CREEK—The Port Hardy Cubs got some help from the Port McNeill Rangers in putting together a full roster for Sunday’s North Vancouver Island Baseball League championship game.
In the final itself, the Cubs got some more help from the rival Hyde Creek Hillbillys.
Russ Taylor scattered five hits in a complete-game effort and Chris Lamothe blasted a two-run home run as the Cubs rolled to a 14-3 victory over Hyde Creek and ended the Hillbillys’ three-year run as league champs.
The Hillbillys hurt their own cause by committing eight errors, including a pair as the Cubs grabbed a 5-0 lead in the first inning. And Taylor didn’t allow them a chance to get back into it, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning before tiring slightly over the final two innings.
“I’m starting to feel it a little now,” Taylor said with a smile after the Cubs were presented the league trophy by Hillbillys assistant captain Ryan Rushton. “I haven’t pitched this much since I was 18.”
Taylor is the newest member of the Cubs, along with his girlfriend, Corrine Fox, who is the first woman to have played in the baseball league as a regular roster member for a season. The duo moved to Port Hardy last fall and joined the team for the first time this spring.
And it’s a good thing they did. The squad struggled with turnout all season, playing two games 6-on-6 and forfeiting two more due to a lack of available players. Only six Cubs arrived for Sunday’s title game, but the roster was bolstered by the addition of three players from the Port McNeill Rangers, who were eliminated in a 19-11 loser-out loss to Hyde Creek earlier Sunday.
“I think we only made a squad of nine players one time,” said Lamothe, the Cubs’ captain. “It was a good thing we have these other teams close by, because it seemed like we could usually pick up players when we needed to.”
One of the six Cubs “regulars” was Mike Schofield, a former Port Alice resident who played for the Cubs for several seasons before moving to Kelowna in the past year. He returned to the North Island for a weekend visit and played for the first time in a year.
“They don’t have a fastball league in Kelowna,” Schofield said.
Hyde Creek was also missing several regulars on the weekend, but had enough players to fill a squad. Several of them, however, had to shift from their normal positions to plug holes elsewhere, and it showed in a ragged defensive effort.
Not that Taylor gave them much of a chance on offence. The hurler was initially penciled into the lineup card as catcher, with Lamothe slated to start and give way to Taylor in relief for the last few innings. But Taylor, who suffered a torn muscle in his shoulder a few years ago, was concerned a couple of throws from the plate to second base might wreck the shoulder for the day, and the two switched roles.
It worked perfectly, with the Hillbillys scraping out just a single, unearned run through the first five innings as the Cubs raced out to a 12-1 lead. Lamothe reached and scored four times, Chris Heslop and Taylor scored three runs each, and the Cubs got two RBI each from Roger Yury and Fox.
“She played in a mixed fastpitch (softball) league, and practiced with our baseball team,” said Taylor, who competed in a baseball league in Victoria before the couple’s move here last October. “She’s pretty comfortable out there.”
Hillbillys 19, Rangers 11
The Hillbillys came from behind for a 19-11 win over Port McNeill in Sunday morning’s loser-out game. A five-run fourth inning lifted the Rangers to a 10-6 lead. Hyde Creek closed to 10-9 with a three-run bottom of the fourth, sparked by Ryan Rushton’s triple, and scored five runs in both the fifth and sixth innings. Joe Leblanc’s three run home run in the sixth put the finishing touches on the win and lifted the Hillbillys into the final.
Rob Kenny reached base in all five plate appearances and scored four runs for the Rangers.
Cubs 10, Hillbillys 4
Lamothe’s grand slam home run provided the difference as the Cubs earned a berth in the finals with the win in the teams’ semifinal meeting. The bases-loaded blast capped a five-run inning that put the Cubs ahead 6-1. The teams played evenly the rest of the way, but the damage was done. Lamothe scored three times and Roger Yury went 2-for-3 with a two-RBI double. Mike Schofield, a former Cub seeing his first action in a year on a weekend visit from his new home in Kelowna, picked up the win on the mound with relief help from Taylor, and added a pair of hits at the plate.
Taylor Galeazzi hit a solo homer for the Hillbillys in the first inning and West went 2-for-2 with a pair of walks and two runs scored.
Cubs 11, Rangers 3
In the second 7-on-6 game between the teams this season, Yury pitched a complete game and Tony Knighton homered and scored three runs in the tourney opener.
Ed James had an RBI single and Kenny added a run-scoring double as the Rangers stuck within 5-3 through four innings. But Knighton’s two-run homer sparked a five-run fifth inning for the Cubs and they pulled away.
Saturday, July 20
Cubs 11, Rangers 3
Cubs 10, Hillbillys 4
Sunday, July 21
Hyde Creek 19, Port McNeill 11
Port Hardy 14, Hyde Creek 3
Cubs 500 342 0—14 10 1
Billys 100 001 1—3 5 8
Taylor and Lamothe; West and Rushton. W—Taylor (1-0). L—West (0-1). LOB—Cubs 10; Hillbillys 3. DP—Cubs 1. 2B—Cubs: Heslop, Taylor. HR—Cubs: Lamothe (2). SB—Cubs: Schofield, Yury; Hillbillys: R. Cessford, Galeazzi. HBP—By West (Lamothe, Schofield). Umpires—Plate, Baker; bases, Dumonceaux. T—2:16. A—27.