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Blue is new champion in Tournament 12

Quebec squad edges B.C. Orange, capping eight-team event at Rogers Centre

TORONTO -- Quebec Blue pulled off a narrow 2-1 victory over B.C. Orange to capture the Tournament 12 championship at Rogers Centre on Saturday.

Orange carried a 1-0 advantage into the fifth inning of the seven-inning match, but the grind of playing a third game of the day finally took its toll as Blue rallied for a pair of late runs.

Mathieu Gauthier-Denault took over for Quebec starter Jeremie Briere down a run in the third and went on to pitch four scoreless innings to record his second win of the tournament.

"The game of baseball for a pitcher is throwing strikes, get the hitters off balance, and I think it went well," said Gauthier-Denault, a Candiac Q.C., native. "The team did a good job with the bat and it was a great game."

After B.C.'s leadoff man scored to get Orange on the board in the first inning, the home side was unable to generate any more offense, despite pressing several times. It loaded the bases to no avail in the fourth, and hit into a key double play with no away in the sixth that all but sealed the outcome.

Orange coach Brooks McNevin said his squad ran out of gas.

"We were up at 6 this morning, and we had one game of rest in between our three today. It was a bit of a tough draw," he said.

McNevin said despite the runner-up finish, the week was a worthwhile endeavour for his team, which was thrilled by the opportunity to play on the Rogers Centre turf in front of pro and college scouts.

"These guys grow up watching the Blue Jays, and getting the chance to come and play there on their field is special for all them," he said. "And to be showcased like that, hopefully it will help take them to where they want to be. For us, being out west, we don't get to come back here very often and play in front of those eastern schools, so I think it's valuable for us to be able make it to this side of the country and hopefully open some doors."

On top of the tournament being a showcase, players from the eight teams in attendance were treated to instruction from a long list of Blue Jays alumni, including the face of Tournament 12, Roberto Alomar.

Gauthier-Denault said the entire experience left him nearly speechless. "It was indescribable," he said.

There was some icing on the cake for the two finalists. They were taken on a tour of the Blue Jays clubhouse after the medal ceremony.

"Every one of the players wants to be there one day, so it was pretty fun," Gauthier-Denault said.

To make the final, B.C. pulled out a narrow win in the first semifinal on Saturday afternoon. After downing Ontario Green earlier in the day to wrap the round-robin portion of the tournament, Orange secured the top seed from the A division, landing a match against No. 2 of the B division seed Ontario Black, which edged the Prairies, 4-2, earlier in the day.

The semifinal matchup was tightly contested through five innings, with neither team able to scrape out a run until late.

Orange was finally able to get to Black starter Tyler Whitbread in the bottom of the sixth, when Nicolas Favaro cracked a two-out triple to centre field. He scored on a Hayden Jaco double to give Orange the lead, before Trevor Lofstrom swatted an RBI single to provide B.C. a two-run lead.

That proved to be crucial as Black made one last run of it in the last at-bat. Jacob Sims walked to lead of the inning before Jalen Harris doubled, putting the tying run on second with no outs. That marked the end of the road for Orange starter Ethan Skuija, who was replaced by Matteo Vincelli with the game on the line. Sims scored on a groundout, making it 2-1 and moving the Harris to third to put the tying run 90 feet away. But Vincelli was able to induce a groundout and a strikeout to escape with the victory, punching Orange's ticket to the finals.

The second semifinal between Green (No. 2 A) and Blue (No. 1 B) was also a low-scoring affair until the late innings. Quebec rallied to score one in the second before taking control in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a three-run shot from Tristan Paris, who turned on an inside pitch from Green hurler Austen Shields and went over the wall in left to make it 4-0. Jason Tarapansky earned the win on the mound with a seven-inning, two-hit shutout.

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for
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