As the players began rolling into the legendary Labatt Park in London, Ontario, the vibes were already set for this to be a special day. The 25-degree sunny weather cemented the fact that this wasn’t an ordinary set of games but would be featuring some of the best young talents that Ontario baseball has to offer in the 2nd Annual PBLO All-Star Showcase Games.
The players taking part have put up very impressive seasons so far, and have been anticipating today since the All-Star lineups were announced earlier this week. “I’m really hyped to be here,” said, Sean Campbell, an outfielder for the 16U Ottawa-Nepean Canadians. When asked the last time he competed in an All-Star Game style of event, Campbell said “Little league”, making today’s day extra special.
Prior to first pitch, all of the players took on-field batting practice with the amazing acoustics that Labatt Park has to offer. The stage was set and everyone was ready for the first game of the day to begin.
Lucas “Herm” Bailey of the Badgers with the start on the mound for 16U West. Things did not go according to plan in his home ballpark as the East scored 4 runs in the top of the 1st, capped off by an RBI double by Quentin Gilles, catcher for the Oshawa Legionaires.
Meanwhile, RHP Easton Smith-D’Oliveira of the Oshawa Legionaires pitched a scoreless inning in the first, but not without a little action. After a couple of early hits, the East proceeded to throw out the runner at home, and then immediately pick off the runner at first base, ending the early threat.
After the West got a run back on a sacrifice fly in the 3rd inning, the score held steady until the middle innings. The 16U East took back control with a 5-run 5th inning, finished off by a bases-clearing double by AJ Dubeau of the Sudbury Voyageurs.
It all seemed over with the score 9-1, but the West didn’t give up. After a couple of runs in the 7th inning, Mac Ewan Cole of the Midwestern-Ontario Bearcats hit a clutch 2-RBI double, making the score 9-5. Just when all of the momentum was on the West Blue’s side, AJ Debeau took control of the game once again with a diving stop in the hole on the right, side, ending the threat of a big inning and the comeback.
In the end, the 16U East came up victorious with a 9-5 win over the 16U West in a game that ended up much much more competitive after seeming out of reach at the midway point.
The 18U players stomped into Labatt Park in the closing moments of the 16U game, ready to make an impression. Some of the older players played in last year’s inaugural All-Star Showcase, and they were here to make an impression proving why they were selected.
Both starting pitchers were on their A-game as 6pm struck. Beginning the game on the mound for the West was the Midwestern-Ontario Bearcats lefty, Jake Heinbuch. He made quick work off the top of the East’s order, striking out two over a 1-2-3 inning. Meanwhile, Frankie Best got the start for the East, working around an early walk to pitch a scoreless bottom half of the inning.
In the 2nd inning, the East took advantage of a couple of walks. With a long drive to the warning track scoring two, mixed with a sacrifice fly by the next batter, the East took an early advantage. But the West fought back right away, scoring two on a fielding error before the East ended the inning with a beautiful relay to throw out the runner at third base.
The East refused to let up, however, as they scored another three runs in the 3rd inning, followed up in the 6th inning by scoring four runs, capped off by a bases-clearing double by Mark Baxter of the Oshawa Legionaires to make the lead grow to 10-2.
The West strung together a series of walks and hits to score four runs in the bottom of the 7th inning to close the gap to 10-6. But in the top of the 9th, the East took advantage of several balks to score four runs of their own; making the final score 14-6 in favour of the East.
Overall, the day was a massive success as players stepped up to the plate, literally, and played at their best with the top competition available in the league. While many of the players had only faced off against one another in league games, this day in Labatt Park gave them a chance to come together and form friendships that travels past city lines. Whether that’s through cheering for clutch hits, or seeing a Jordan Romano doppelganger in the stands that was being referenced until the night was fully over, this day was one that will be on the minds of these talented kids for years to come.