HYDE CREEK—The Hyde Creek Hillbillys credited an infusion of youth for their run to the finals of the North Vancouver Island Baseball League playoffs.
But it was one of the grizzled vets who led the squad to a 14-0 win over the top-seeded Port Hardy Cubs Sunday in the league championship game at the local ballpark.
Jason West, who sports a salt-and-pepper beard and jokingly refers to himself as “an amateur silverback,” pitched a seven-inning, complete-game shutout and added a two-run home run as the Hillbillys (9-4) claimed their second straight league title.
Hyde Creek coaches were prepared, if necessary, to relieve West in the late stages of the game, but the hurler was at his best at the end, allowing just one baserunner over the final three innings and getting two of his five strikeouts in the bottom of the seventh.
It was the second playoff win for West, who pitched four innings of scoreless relief in the Hillbillys’ 18-8 comeback win over the Port McNeill Rangers in the first round last Wednesday.
“I’m confident in what I do,” said West, who scattered three singles and allowed only one runner beyond first base after escaping a bases-loaded jam in the first inning Sunday. “I felt good. I just went out and had fun; that was the plan from the get-go.”
West was backed by error-free defense. Up the middle behind him were a trio of youngsters from Woss — rookies Taylor Galeazzi in center field and Curtis Carmen at second base and third-year shortstop Ryan Rushton, who recruited the other two after an extended lobbying effort.
“It took three years to get this guy,” Rushton said, pointing at Galeazzi. “And it took halfway through the season.”
The three paid dividends in the team’s playoff run last week. Carmen threw a complete game in the Hillbillys’ 8-1 semifinal win Saturday over Port Hardy (8-5). Galeazzi hit two home runs and raced to the wall in left-center field to rob the Cubs’ Chris Lamothe of a potential tying grand slam homer with Hyde Creek leading 5-1 in the fifth inning.
Rushton had six infield assists without a bobble in the final. “The key to this season was those extra young guys Ryan recruited,” said coach Bill Cessford. Lamothe, who was presented the league MVP award based on a vote by all players before the playoffs began, started Sunday’s final after catching back-to-back games Saturday.
He ran into immediate trouble, serving up a leadoff walk and an RBI double to Galeazzi. A hit batter and two more walks produced another Hyde Creek run, and Glenn Moore capped the five-run inning with a two-out, two-run single and eventually came around to score on a throwing error.
The Hillbillys added single runs in three innings to push the lead to 8-0, and put the game away with a six-run seventh as Lamothe ran out of gas.
“My arm’s toast,” said Lamothe, who wore an ice pack on his pitching shoulder for the post-game barbecue at the adjacent community hall. He’s played three seasons through a torn rotator cuff in the shoulder but said he plans to finally have surgery on it, “as soon as possible.”
West and Moore each finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs, Ivan Hall scored three runs and Galeazzi and Carmen each had a pair of hits.
Hillbillys 8, Cubs 1
Tom Cessford and Galeazzi led off Saturday’s semfinal with back-to-back home runs, and that would be all the Hillbillys would need to clinch a spot in Sunday’s final. Galeazzi added another homer in the fourth inning and finished with three RBIs and three runs, and Moore plated two runs with a single and also scored a run while drawing three walks.
Cubs 12, Rangers 6
Lamothe snapped a 1-1 tie with a two-run triple in the third inning of Saturday’s elimination game, and the Cubs went on to score 10 runs in the inning. Jason Hodson’s bases-clearing double was the other big blow in the frame, from which the Rangers (2-10) never recovered.
Romas finished 3-for-4 with three RBI and two runs and picked up the win on the mound while collecting six strikeouts through six innings of work.
Hillbillys 18, Rangers 8
In Wednesday’s first-round game, Hall homered in his first three trips to the plate, later added a bases-loaded double and finished with 10 RBI as the Hillbillys overcame an early 8-2 deficit. Rushton and Cessford scored four runs each and West was 3-for-3 with an RBI double and two runs.
Tyler Berry reached base four times and scored twice for the Rangers, who scored all of their runs in the first three innings.