The Diggers are back on top of the Bowen baseball world following a commanding regular season and tournament run.
The Bowen Fastpitch Tournament took place last weekend with all six teams in the league contending for the honour of island champions. Games took place Friday through championship Sunday, with a lively crowd and elevated play a fixture of all three days.
Adam Woodward, member of the Diggers and league president, said his squad was encouraged after having the best regular season record.
“We thought it went well, because we won the league but we knew that we hadn’t played our best. And we knew we needed to turn it up another level for the tournament if we wanted to win… We know what it takes to win,” said Woodward.
The Diggers certainly do know what winning involves: They claimed back to back titles in 2015/16 and 2018/19. After the pandemic cancelled the 2020 tournament, they watched with the rest of the league as the Firemen hoisted the trophy in 2021.
The Diggers began their climb back to the podium's top in the first game of the tournament on Friday night, forcing a mercy call from the Shakers in an 11-1 win. But the next day against the Firemen, it was their rivals who had the better of the occasion by a score of 10-8.
It was crunch time in the final group stage game to lock in a trip to the semifinals, and the Diggers delivered with a gritty 8-5 win over the Twins. “We were happy we were through, because we knew that anything could happen once you get to the semis. And then our bats got hot at the right time,” said Woodward on the team clinching their spot.
Naturally, the Diggers would once again need to get past the Firemen to accomplish their goals. And they did so in resounding fashion, forcing their second mercy call of the tournament with a 15-5 win, and finally casting off the team which had caused them so much trouble the past two seasons.
“We knew we could beat them, but we also knew how good they were, and they’re the defending champs,” said Woodward.
Diggers/Brewers clash for the title
Finally, it was the Brewers in the final. Steve Baskerville was on the mound for the opposition, owner of the most wins, best WHIP, most innings pitched, and 3rd best ERA during the regular reason.
“We knew they’d want to beat us, they always really want to beat us. We knew we were going to be in for a tight contest… But, we beat them three times in the regular season, so we knew that we could beat them,” said Woodward on the pre-final mood.
And in the end, the Diggers returned to the top with a wire-to-wire 11-7 victory over the Brewers. The championship is now the fifth in the past seven tournaments for the squad, firmly establishing them as one of the most dominant teams to ever step on the Bowen field.
Woodward combined with teammate Dan Guillon on the mound to keep the Brewers bats in check for the final game, pitching the final three innings after Guillon took care of the first four. Paul Whitecotton pitched in with a massive catch in centre field, an average F8 in the scorebook, but a massive momentum booster en route to the title.
Woodward also credits Michael Dawson’s ability to reach base, Tom Woodward’s defence, Guillon’s pitching, and Aaron Johnstone’s home runs as further keys to the Diggers tournament success.
As for the overall competition, Woodward says it’s one of the most exciting he’s ever seen. “I thought it was one of the best turnouts in tournament history… Very rarely is every team still alive on Sunday… Going in I think every team thought they had a chance to win.” This was proven through upset wins such as the Twins over the Firemen and Shakers over Brewers during the group stage.
The atmosphere and excitement present all weekend also reinforced the love of baseball in the community. “It’s engrained in the culture and the fabric of Bowen Island. I think one of the reasons is that the field is so unique, right in the middle of “downtown Bowen”, if you will,” Woodward quips on its location.
“So many people look up to the league, it has such a folklore to it. Kids play at a young age thinking one day that they’ll be playing in the league. I was a little kid looking up and watching the league, and it’s come full circle now,” says Woodward.
The Diggers and Woodward will be looking to go full circle right back to the trophy presentation and score yet another back to back run when the 2023 season gets underway next spring. Five other teams will be firmly set on standing in their way, and taking the chance to write their own Bowen summer classic story.