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The Gee-Gees pitching was hit hard this weekend at the OUA championship. Photo: Michael P. Hall/Provided

Future looks bright for baseball club with loads of young talent

The University of Ottawa baseball club was eliminated from the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championships in Ajax on Saturday afternoon after losing their three round-robin games.

The Gee-Gees opened up the championships against the University of Windsor Lancers on Friday afternoon. The Gees fell behind early, as the Lancers scored two runs in the top of the first. 

In the third and up by two, Windsor’s offence went to work, scoring six more off pitcher Adriano Petrangelo. Ottawa answered with one run in the bottom of the third, but Windsor in the top of fourth got to relief pitcher Ethan Nodwell for seven runs, knocking him out of the game before he could even get a single out. 

With Windsor up by more than 10 runs after five innings, the game was declared a mercy with the Lancers annihilating the Gee-Gees 18-4 after five.

On Friday evening, the Gee-Gees faced the McMaster University Marauders. In spite of a strong start by Matthew Brown, the Gee-Gees trailed early, as McMaster took a four-run lead in the first two innings. Ottawa cut the Marauders lead down to three runs in the fourth inning but the men in Grey and Garnet were unable to come back. McMaster ran away with a 6-2 victory in arguably the Gee-Gees most competitive game of the championship.

Already eliminated on Saturday, the Gees took on the Laurentian Voyageurs in their last game of the championship. Once again, the Gee-Gees were uphanded by a much stronger team. In fact, Ottawa had all of one hit in a weather-shortened 4-1 lost to the Voyageurs. 

Head coach Andrew Cockburn said he was proud of his team, despite a tough experience at their first OUA championship 

“I was proud of the way we competed,” he said. “We had some bad luck with our first baseman and one of our team leaders Ethan Nodwell seriously injuring his hand in our first game, but our focus and effort level remained high even after we were eliminated.” 

“We had a tough division, as both Windsor and McMaster were very strong teams who both made it to the semi-finals and we became more competitive with each game we played,” Cockburn added.

A rough learning curb

Finishing the season with a record of 3-11, the young Gee-Gees had their fair share of struggles facing older and more experienced teams. With a young core, the Gees worked with a mostly freshman starting nine for much of the season. In an interview with the Fulcrum, former team president and player Ryan Sudhakar reflected on the season.

“This year was definitely not what we were hoping for results-wise, but we’re a really young team; most of our starting guys were freshmen,” said Sudhakar. “Playing OUA baseball for a full year was definitely a positive learning experience for the young guys, and we’ll use that to set expectations and goals for ourselves next year.”

Others, like rookie Jared Mullin, said they think the positives of the season outweigh the negatives.

“Obviously we didn’t get the results we wanted, but there were definitely lots of positives to build off of,” said Mullin. “Beating the eventual league finalists, Carleton, twice in the O-Train series is definitely something we can be proud of heading into next year.” 

“Another thing is the majority of our team comes from a young core that will be around for another few years that will have the experience needed to have success at this level,” he added.

As for Cockburn, he said he believes this year will help the team’s young core learn valuable lessons.

“We had an extremely high number of young players in their first or second year,” said Cockburn. “So this year was a great opportunity for them to gain experience competing at an elite level and we’re really excited to see them grow and develop as baseball players.”

The kids are alright 

For both Mullin and Sudhakar, rookie catcher Daniel Symonds is a player that will wreak havoc on the OUA in the years to come.

“He started the year on the bench but worked his way into the starting lineup near the end of the year,” said Sudhakar.“He really carried our offence from the lead-off spot throughout the OUA tournament and we’re excited for him to get a full season in the starting lineup next year.” 

“Daniel Symonds had a great rookie year, splitting time between catcher and designated hitter,” said Mullin. He “got really hot near the end of the season and had a really strong playoff, definitely will be a stand out player in years to come.”

As for the coach, he said he thinks a host of rookies will be ready to step up in a big way for his team next year. 

“Jackson McSorley is a first-year middle infielder and pitcher who has shown a lot of defensive promise and the ability to make some great plays,” said Cockburn. “Jared Mullin is a first-year third baseman who was among the team leaders in all offensive categories and won rookie of the week during the season.” 

“Evan Whiteway-Willard is a first-year outfielder who has shown a lot of promise,” Cockburn added. “Tim Moloney who is a third-year third baseman and pitcher who is and will continue to be one of our most reliable players, both at the plate and on the mound.”

Competitive funding not enough, club says

One of the biggest hampers to the Gee-Gees team was their competitive club status. Facing mostly varsity teams, the Gees were already down in most games before the first pitch.

“Most of the top teams have a lot more funding and depth on rosters than we do,” said Mullin. “Most teams, such as the now back-to-back champs Laurier, have 40-plus player rosters, full coaching and athletic therapy staff, team buses, and full-time indoor baseball facilities, among other things. Baseball at some schools is definitely more valued than it is here.” 

However, the young third-baseman said he believes that at the end of the day, it’s how you compete on the diamond that determines the outcome of a game.

“The ball is always in our court, we have a lot of talented players on this team as it is, we just need to get better every day, the grinding never stops,” he said. “That’s what separates good teams from great teams.”

For his part, Cockburn thinks a varsity club or team status would help his team in a big way. 

“Some of the teams we compete against are in a completely different situation as they are provided resources such as athletic therapists, team busses, access to high-performance centres and more funding,” Cockburn added “Having varsity or varsity club status would completely change our program, since we would be able to develop players better, keep them healthier and more players would be interested in coming to the school because of the support.”

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