The Bruno Merchants fastball team won the 2012 Softball Saskatchewan Senior “B” Men’s Provincial Championship Draw held July 20-22 in Saskatoon.
This marks the fourth year in a row that Bruno has won the Provincial title in that category and the seventh time in the last eight years that they’ve claimed top spot in the province.
Gaining this year’s title was a close call, as they had to use both of their lives in the final to win top spot. The Merchants had to play the Delisle National Leasing Diamond Dogs twice in final, as they lost the first game 14-8 after being up 6-0.
The second game was no cake-walk either as Bruno edged out a 3-1 win.
The first game between Delisle and Bruno saw neither team score in the first inning. The game changed drastically in the second as Bruno scored six runs, thanks to some Delisle errors and smart base running by the Merchants.
With a 6-0 lead, the Merchants slacked off a little and the Dogs took advantage, scoring three runs in the third with some key hits including a three-run homer by Jason Hitchings.
Delisle tied the game in the top of the fourth with a three-run home run by designated player Shawn Colborn. Bruno scored one in their half of the fourth to take a 7-6 lead, which lasted until the top of the sixth inning when Delisle got four more runs to take a 10-7 lead.
The Merchants scored one in the bottom of the sixth to make it a two-run game, but Delisle’s Colborn gave his team an even bigger lead with a grand slam home run to left field in the top of the seventh. With a six-run lead, Delisle shut down the Merchants in the bottom of the seventh, taking a 14-8 come-from-behind victory and forcing a second game.
After a short break, both teams — tired, hot, and slightly dehydrated from the long, sunny day — took to the field in a last ditch effort to claim a title. For this game, Delisle was the home team, hoping that their hot bats would carry over from the first game.
The Dogs got the first run of the game, thanks to a couple of singles and took a 1-0 lead into the second inning. Bruno wasn’t ready to quit, though and scored three runs, starting with a homer by Josh Duek, to start the second and followed by some singles and a sacrifice fly to advance runners.
Bruno pitcher Justin Dauvin — who ended the day with 21 innings under his belt — was backed up by some impressive fielding, played a tight defence and allowed only two Delisle batters to reach base in the rest of the game.
A double play ended the game and the Merchants erupted in cheers as the 3-1 gave them another provincial title and a trip to the 2012 Senior B Western Canadian championships in Abbotsford, B.C. being held August 16-19.
“We did it the hard way,” said Bruno coach Ray Bender after the game. “This is never an easy tournament and we were short of pitchers this weekend as one is hurt, but we never quit.”
Bender said the team had a couple of key hits at the right time throughout the tournament to keep them on track. He also praised Dauvin’s pitching.
“He threw a heck of a game,” Bender said of Dauvin’s performance in the final two games. “He was tired, but he threw that last game on adrenaline and put lots into it.”
The Merchants weren’t undefeated in the tournament, even before the playoffs, losing to Grenfell 3-2 in their last round-robin game on Saturday. Bruno had defeated the North Battleford Petro Hawks 9-2 earlier in the day and beat the Saskatoon Parktown Hotel Padres in their first game on Friday.
The Padres had a 2-0 lead after their first at-bats, but Bruno scored four in the bottom of the first to take a 4-2 lead with the help of a home run by Jarrod Teichreb and never looked back. The Merchants scored one more in the fourth, to make it a 5-2 game and that stood up to the end, with Bruno not taking their last at-bats.
Bruno’s first playoff game was against the Bulyea Rustlers, which they won 8-1. That win gave them a ticket to the final and a break from the heat as the other teams fought for a chance at the final.