PORT McNEILL — After the show Load ’em Up put on to reach the A final of the 12th annual OrcaFest Slo-pitch Tournament, the championship game was somewhat anticlimactic.
The Port Hardy club pounded five home runs in the first three innings and rolled to a 19-7 win over the Woss Brewers to clinch the tourney trophy in a game shortened to five innings by the 10-run “mercy” rule.
Sunday’s title win came a year after Load ’em Up fell one run short in a loss to Adrenaline Rush of Campbell River in the A final. This time, the two teams met in the semifinals, with Load ’em Up eliminating the three-time defending champs with a 15-4 win that also invoked the mercy rule.
“Redemption,” Load ’em Up manager Stephen Clair said. “That was a sweet victory.”
Catcher Ruth Jacobson agreed.
“That was the most important game,” she said.
As impressive as the two playoff bracket wins were, Load ’em Up would not even have reached the A Division had it not parlayed a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh inning into a 14-13 win over Politically Incorrect of Duncan in what was likely the game of the tourney.
In its final round-robin game Saturday, Load ’em Up trailed 13-10 heading into the bottom of the final inning and had already reached its per-game limit of five home runs for the contest. But the team rallied with a station-to-station inning that ended on an RBI hit by Brian Texmo.
“That was quite an intense game,” said Clair.
Load ’em Up entered the A playoff bracket as the second-seeded team. As the final against the top-seeded Brewers began, Clair took up his station in the third-base coach’s box and implored his players to save their five home runs for a similar late-game charge.
But Texmo launched a two-run shot in a five-run first inning, Mitchell Blackmore and Jim Johnson added solo shots and Jake Colborne hit a three-run bomb in the second, and Bubba Nelson hit a two-run blast with nobody out in the third to put the team at its limit.
Nelson’s shot gave the team a 12-2 lead, which was more than enough.
Colborne finished with three hits, three RBI and four runs, Jacobson had three hits and drove in a pair, Arlene Clair had two RBI on a single and a sacrifice fly, and Tony Knighton had two hits and two runs scored.
“It was a good effort by everyone,” Stephen Clair said of the weekend. “Our girls were real strong. It was a great tournament. This was our year.”
Port McNeill’s Dustmen claimed the B final for the second straight year, topping the Canadian Eh’s of Port Hardy 10-7 in a game in which all the runs were scored in the first three innings.
Ivan Hall homered twice and Andrew Laming and Greg Fox added long balls for the Dustmen, who took the lead for good with a five-run third inning.
12th Annual OrcaFest Tournament
Final: Load ’em Up 19, Woss Brewers 7. Third place: Adrenaline Rush. Fourth: Politically Incorrect.
Male most sportsmanlike: Bubba Nelson, Load ’em Up. Female: Tanya Munroe, Adrenaline Rush.
Final: Dustmen 10, Canadian Eh’s 7. Third: Fort Rupert Generals. Fourth: Bandits.
Male most sportsmanlike: Jeffery Tam, Bandits; Female: Leigh Deans, Canadian Eh’s.
Final: Woodchuckers 17, Fanny Bay T&B 13. Third: Sportsmen. Fourth: Comtech Crushers.
Male most sportsmanlike: Craig Smith, Comtech Crushers; Female: Debbie Balcke, Sportsmen.
Final: Port Alice def. Hi Vis (no score available). Third: Rez. Fourth: B.C. Buds.
Male most sportsmanlike: Kelly Jones, Hi Vis; Female: Jen Nelson, Rez.
Final: Timberland 23, Ballerz 8. Third: Slippery Kittens. Fourth: Team Awesome.
Male most sportsmanlike: John Friman, Timberland; Female: Bree Healey, Slippery Kittens.
Final: Loose Change 17, Brew Crew 16
Male most sportsmanlike: Vince Norris, Loose Change; Female: Ashley Relkie, Brew Crew.
Most sportsmanlike team: Fanny Bay T&B