Geekie Sharp, Boyle Drives, Manitoba Goes for Gold
WINNIPEG, MB. — Pinch hitter Tanner Boyle from Portage la Prairie doubled home the only run of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning as Team Manitoba earned a shot at baseball gold.
Manitoba, a team that finished seventh in baseball at the 2013 Canada Summer Games and hasn’t been to the Summer Games gold medal baseball game since 1985, beat Alberta 1-0 in a thriller in front of 3,000 appreciative fans at Shaw Park.
Starting pitcher Noah Geekie pitched outstanding baseball for 6.1 innings and then Jordan Lussier got the job dome in a very nervous seventh as Manitoba will head to the gold medal game on Friday at the downtown ballpark.
The game was scoreless through the first five innings when Boyle stepped to the plate in a pinch-hitting role and delivered what turned out to be the deciding blow.
“I was excited to have that chance to drive in that run, honestly,” said Boyle, a hockey and baseball star from Portage la Prairie. “I was pumped and then it happened. I was shocked. I was 2-0 and I was looking for a fastball I could hit and I drove it the other way.
“I was jumping up and down before I got to second base. I was fired up.”
While Team Manitoba head coach Faron Asham from Brandon was thrilled for Boyle, he was very happy with the effort of his pitchers. Geekie from Strathclair and Lussier from Winnipeg combined to allow no runs on just six hits.
“Noah had a great start,” said Asham. “We knew going in, he was the guy we wanted on the mound. He’s our guy. He battled hard. He battled through a very, very tough lefthanded-hitting lineup over there. What can you say, he came through again.
“I made the decision to change pitchers (take out Geekie and go with Jordan Lussier) because I didn’t like the matchup and I knew we had Lussier. He got the save in Game 3 so he’s a quality pitcher. I knew he would come in and throw strikes. I was hoping he’d get a double play out of it, but a strikeout and a fly to right-centre works, too.”
Geekie, an outstanding hockey player (his older brother Morgan was just drafted by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes) was drafted himself by the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. However, he’s giving up hockey to pursue baseball and will head to Okotoks Baseball Academy in Alberta this fall for his final year of high school.
“We just wanted to go out there, have some fun and keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Geekie said. “We just wanted to get the W. My plan was to live at the knees. I knew if I could keep the ball down, I’d be fine. As long as I hit my spots, I’d get outs. I have a great D behind me so I just tried to get a lot of ground balls.
“I just wanted to go out, do my best, let them put balls in play and let the D do the work.”
The strategy worked to a T and now Manitoba has a shot at baseball gold.
The championship game will be played Friday night at Shaw Park at 7:05 p.m. Manitoba will face either Ontario or Saskatchewan.
—Scott Taylor, MyToba News
Photo – James Carey Lauder