Blue Jays crown Pitch, Hit and Run winners

June 11th, 2016
The Blue Jays hosted the annual Pitch, Hit and Run competition Saturday. (Alykhan Ravjiani/ Ravjiani/

TORONTO -- Elijha Hammill came into Rogers Centre Saturday morning on a mission, and was once again successful in the team championship portion of the Scotts Major League Baseball Pitch, Hit & Run competition.

The 12-year-old Oakville, Ont., native finished second in the national finals last year in Cincinnati at Great American Ball Park, and is looking to earn a trip to this year's event at Petco Park in San Diego during MLB All-Star Week.

The competition is free to enter and open to both boys and girls, with youth competing in pitching, hitting and running drills under eight different age divisions for both baseball and softball. Participants must qualify for the national finals by first advancing through three levels of competion.

Hammill came away victorious in the age 11/12 baseball category on Saturday for a second consecutive year, wowing the audience with his agility around the bases and his ability to hit for power.

"It felt really good," said Hammil, a fan of Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays. "All the hard work I put into this moment really paid off and it feels amazing."

"Once I did the hitting drill, I saw how far I hit and thought that maybe I would have a bit of an edge. And then when I did my running, I felt good and it made me confident I had a good chance."

Known as the "Official Youth Skills Competition of Major League Baseball," the program is celebrating its 20th season and is a part of Major League Baseball's Play Ball initiative, which encourages widespread participation in all forms of baseball activities among all age groups.

Between participants and spectators, more than 100 showed up bright and early prior to the Blue Jays' game against the Orioles on Saturday, with the participants taking part in a pregame ceremony alongside Blue Jays reliever Jesse Chavez before enjoying the ballgame.

Tyler Kell (Windsor, Ont.) and Kaden Falardeau (Welland, Ont.) finished second and third in the 11/12 baseball division behind Hammill.

The 13/14 baseball division had Blake Bryan (Brantford, Ont.) finish first, with Landen Meloche (Belle River, Ont.) and Hunter Willis (St.Catharines, Ont.) finishing next.

Sam Willsie (Putnam, Ont.) took home the hardware in the 9/10 baseball division, with Ben Warren (Eganville, Ont.) and Cameron Semple (Carlsbad Springs, Ont.) coming in second and third.

The 7/8 baseball division saw Gavin Campbell (Belle River, Ont.) finish first with Owen Gibson (Perth, Ont.) and Devon Lucas (Thorndale, Ont.) finishing behind Campbell.

Carly Niece (Port Colborne, Ont.) won the 13/14 softball division with Alexandra D'amato (Georgetown, Ont.), Grace Gagnier (Comber, Ont.) and Tessa Cain (Sudbury, Ont.) as the runners-up.

Lindsay Merner (Zurich, Ont.) was crowned the champion of the 11/12 softball division with Ashley Ruddick (Cupreol, Ont.) and Nevaeh Agostinis (Windsor, Ont.) as the runners-up.

Even the youngest superstars were out in full force, as Matthew Wood (Ayr, Ont.) earned the honors for the 9/10 softball division with Brianna Demille (Trenton, Ont.) and Eve McCosh (Belle River, Ont.) as the runners-up.

Hunter Mass (Brantford, Ont.) took first place in the 7/8 softball division with Kennedie Hofing (Acton, Ont.) and Sierra Bryceland (Belle River, Ont.) finishing second and third.