By Brandon Buechler
The Ryerson Rams baseball team (7-11) spent the weekend competing in the OUA Baseball Championships in London, Ont. after clinching their first-ever postseason berth.
In a weekend of near sub-zero temperatures, the Rams performed well against three of Ontario’s top university squads.
Despite two close games, including a decisive victory over the Guelph Gryphons (12-6), the Rams were handed their second – and, in a double-knockout format, their final – loss by the University of Toronto Varsity Blues (8-10) on Saturday. The team will return to Toronto without any trophies, but has gained plenty of valuable experience. Ryerson head coach Ben Rich said he couldn’t be prouder of his squad.
“When we started the program three years ago, we set a goal of making the playoffs in three to five years, and to make it here at the beginning of that timeline is fantastic,” Rich said. “We knew we belonged here and I couldn’t be prouder.”
The tournament, hosted by Western University, began on Friday for Ryerson with a difficult assignment: a match against the top-seeded defending champions, the Brock Badgers.
The Rams sent ace pitcher Quinn Cumming to the mound to face a relentless Badgers offence. Cumming (2.93 ERA), who led the league in strikeouts (33), innings pitched (46.0) and complete games (4), appeared to settle into an early groove, holding the Badgers to a single run through four innings.
The game was interrupted and suspended after the weather took a turn for a worse, drenching the field and making it unplayable. When the match resumed Saturday morning, Cumming was back on the mound but his groove was broken. He proceeded to surrender another seven runs through his next two innings.
Ryerson went on to lose via the mercy rule, as Brock led 11-0 after seven innings.
“Obviously the restart wasn’t too kind to us,” Rich said during the team’s intermission. “They came out swinging the bats and we didn’t. It’s the same [situation] for Brock as it is for us and we just didn’t deal with it the way we should’ve.”
In the second game, Ryerson sent third-year veteran Caleb King to the mound against Guelph. After firing the opening salvo in the first, the Rams found themselves down 3-1 in the top of the fourth, facing Jeffrey Snelgrove.
The Ryerson squad proceeded to dominate against the Brampton, Ont. native for another five runs in the inning, sending 10 to the plate and ending Snelgrove’s afternoon. Stephen Fried entered the game in relief and recording Ryerson’s third out, with Guelph down 6-3.
It was here that the game got a little strange.
After King walked his second batter of the game, Rich met with his big righty for a brief mound visit. The home plate umpire told Rich to return to the dugout following an inaudible conversation, to which Rich replied, “Where do you think I’m going?” This resulted in Rich’s ejection and an automatic one-game suspension.
“When we started the program three years ago, we set a goal of making the playoffs in three to five years, and to make it here at the beginning of that timeline is fantastic”
Despite the loss of their manager, the Rams’ deluge of runs did not cease, as the team went on to score another seven, leading 13-6 heading into the bottom of the ninth. Guelph, however, did not make it easy.
The Rams’ bullpen struggled in the ninth and served up six runs, turning the blowout into a nail-biter. It was rookie right-hander Luke Bellus who finally stopped the bleeding, escaping a one out bases-loaded jam to preserve the lead and record a two-out save for the 13-12 win.
“Oh, we were never even worried,” Bellus joked after the game.
The third game matched the Ryerson Rams against the rivalling U of T Varsity Blues. Toronto was fresh off a win against Brock, and sent David Pham to the mound against the Rams.
Pham struggled early, allowing three walks and five earned runs over 3 2/3rd innings. The Rams countered with 2014 all-star righty Kevin Macdonald, who allowed six earned runs over seven innings.
Although the Rams held a commanding 6-3 lead at the fifth inning, the Varsity Blues slowly chipped away at Macdonald, scoring a run in the sixth, seventh and two in the eighth, giving themselves a 7-6 lead.
On the other side of the ledger, the Rams were swiftly silenced by right-hander Daniel Connolly, who tossed 4 1/3rd scoreless innings, giving Toronto their opportunity to climb back into the game.
Head coach Rich, who was sidelined by the suspension for the game but watched it nonetheless, said despite his team’s heartbreaking loss, their accomplishments were no less important.
“When you get to the playoffs you need to play near-perfect baseball, and we didn’t do that this game,” Rich said. “That doesn’t take away from what we did this weekend and this season. We battled all game for this one.”
Rich sees a bright future for the squad as it enters its fourth year.
“We build on this experience, make the playoffs next year and be contending for championships every year after that,” Rich said.
The tournament concludes Ryerson’s baseball season. The team finished with a final record of seven wins and 11 losses in the regular season and one win and two losses in the postseason. The Rams did not have a single player elected to the first or second-team All-Star teams this season, nor did they have a major award winner.