The Niagara Metros (@NiagaraMetros) came to within one out of the COBA Major Baseball (@COBABaseball) Championship yesterday, but the win was simply not in the cards. In a pair of gritty, hard-fought games from both the Metros and the Erindale Cardinals (@CardinalsBB), Niagara simply wasn’t able to close the deal to wrap up what was otherwise a spotless playoff push. In the end, the lower-seeded Metros eventually fell by scores of 9-5 and 3-2, respectively, ending their 2016 campaign as COBA Baseball runners up.
After breezing through Saturday’s action against the Burlington Brants (8-0) and the Oakville A’s (@OakvilleAs) (15-0), the Metros positioned themselves well heading into Sunday’s championship action. Needing to win just one game, Niagara sent standout starter Dylan Perego (@_dylanperego_) to the mound to battle the Cardinals in Game 1. Perego has been as consistent as they come for Niagara this season and appeared to be in fine form early on in what was shaping up to be quite a pitcher’s duel.
Both teams were kept off the scoreboard across the first two innings, but it was the Cardinals who managed to break through first in the third frame, starting what was a real battle of small ball versus long ball. Thanks to a collection of singles, the team was able to score the game’s opening run, but their lead was short-lived. In the top half of the following frame, the Metros’ bats finally awoke to the tune of a pair of singles from Tyler Wood (@tylerwood02) and Evan Baglieri (@Evan_Bags17), followed by a 3-run home run from Dave Davidson (@DAVVEED17) to give Niagara a 3-1 lead.
At this midway point of the, it seemed that the tides had clearly turned in the Metros favour, as even an obscure 5-1-3 put out at first base the following inning was made to look textbook. But that’s where the team’s luck ran out, as the higher-seeded Cardinals were able to produce their sought-after breakout inning. Erindale brought home five baserunners in the fifth, followed by another three in the sixth frame, despite never hitting an extra-base knock. While the Metros didn’t just accept defeat, notching another two solo home runs off the bats of Baglieri and Ryan Laird, respectively, the team simply couldn’t make up the complete deficit.
The 9-5 loss in Game 1 set up a winner take all rematch to wrap up the COBA Major season as a result of the double-elimination playoff format. And while the varying approaches to the offensive side were the story in Game 1, it was the pitchers that shone in the encore. After a scoreless first inning, the Metros used a little small ball of their own to secure the early lead. A pair of singles, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly from Anthony Vacca (@AV_3) scored the game’s first run, which for much of the game appeared to be enough to earn the win.
Metros’ starting pitcher Brandon Beattie (@BrandonBT14) was in fine form for the season’s final game, not just handling the pressure, but embracing it. Through the first six innings, Beattie barely broke a sweat, dealing only once with a Cardinals threat. Beattie collected six strikeouts in the first six frames, settling into an other-worldly groove for Niagara. And after Vacca was able to cross the plate in the seventh inning on a pass ball to add an insurance run for the visiting Metros, it appeared as though the game was all but over.
But the persistent Cardinals, who were into their third game of the day, were not ready to call it quits. The home team took advantage of a couple walks and well-placed knocks to tie the game in their final at bat, even while facing their final out. Their clutch hitting took the game to extra innings, and after a scoreless eighth, Erindale was able to complete the comeback in the bottom of the ninth with a walk-off, bases-loaded single.
While it was not the result the Metros were looking for, it was truly a well-played day of baseball to cap off what was an impressive playoff run. Niagara would like to send their congratulations to the Erindale Cardinals on a great season and a well-played championship. And for all the Metros faithful, the team will be back in full force next season to finish all that was started this year!