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Diggers usher in a new era

It was an historic baseball weekend in the Bowen Fastpitch league as the youthful Diggers, once the gang that couldn't hit straight or hit at all finished their journey from chumps to champs with a 20-6 drubbing of the Firemen in the final of the yea

It was an historic baseball weekend in the Bowen Fastpitch league as the youthful Diggers, once the gang that couldn't hit straight or hit at all finished their journey from chumps to champs with a 20-6 drubbing of the Firemen in the final of the year-end tourney.

The win marked their first championship in franchise history.

"It feels great, just great," longest serving Digger Ralph Fleming said, standing on Snug Cove field with jubilant teammates Sunday evening. "I just kept coming back year after year and we finally did it." The 60-plus Fleming can now officially forget about the season: the team finished 0-22 with one tie.

While pitcher Adam Woodward was a workhorse on the mound, the win belonged to the team's bats. In the deciding game the Diggers hit six homers or was it seven? - against fire lads Mike 'the Cannon' Carachelo and Phil 'Philbert' Wood, the best pitching combo the league has known.

Though not on this day, they weren't.

"They wanted it bad and they worked hard and played really great baseball," Wood said after the handshakes were done. "They deserve to be the champs."

Dan Guillon and Morgan Dawson each clubbed two home runs and veteran Dangerous Dan Cowper and league batting champ Aaron Johnstone who hit an astonishing .760 during the regular season hit one each. One of Adam or Tom Woodward might have gone yard, too, it was such an awesome display of power that keeping track wasn't easy.

The hits came throughout the line-up for the Diggers, who knew the winning history of their opponents and never let the foot off the gas pedal. The last time a club other than the Firemen or Twins were champs, some Diggers may have been in grade school. The youngsters and veterans embraced on the mound after the final out, picking up Fleming and dancing about as 250 fans cheered.

"It's nice to see a different team win," fan Mara Brenner said.

It was especially sweet for first baseman Reg Norris, for years a Fireman, who opted this year to sign with the Diggers. Norris had his own cheering section, led by Spencer Grundy and Big Jim Gibson, who for the deciding game put up a sign reading 'The Reg Zone' in right field. The affable father of three has won back to back championships with different teams, likely a first in league history.

While the final was a blow-out, the tournament was hard fought and all six teams managed at least one win. It was a disappointing tourney for the Cruisers, who made the final last year but this time, along with the Celtics, were out after round robin play. Cruiser Brian Park, this year's winner of the Best Senior Award also called the Celtic Award - injured his ankle badly but the latest injury report (from his wife) said it wasn't broken. Though hobbling, he's back to work.

The Twins continued a decline, losing in the semi-finals to the Firemen, failing for the second year in a row to find that magic formula that has seen them, literally for decades, make comeback after spirited comeback to win tourneys. The team has mostly stayed the same for years - never needed new players before - but that may now change.

Meanwhile, the Shakers remain a club that cannot get over the hurdle and Glen McGregor, in the league since day one, was again left on the outside looking in. McGregor pitched brilliantly though, as did Steve 'the Mound of' Baskerville, but they lost a close one to the Diggers in a semi-final. A Shaker highlight was the play of talented American actor, Sean Tant. Ball season over, Tant now returns to New York.

The Celtics, league doormats, had 12 of 13 players over 44 just 2 years ago but now have six under 25. A homer by Amos Rosen in the tourney, the great defensive play of 17-year-old phenom Jackson Miller and Ben 'Roo' Roocroft's continued journey to quality ballplayer, suggest better things in the future. Celtic Mike Lightbody had one of the league's cutest fans cheering for him.

"My Daddy played really good," said Jo Jo Bucklesnort, 5.

This year, the unprecedented number of rain cancellations and postponements due to the Canucks playoff run made for the most make-up games in the league's 26-year history. But in the final analysis, the season was about the changing of the guard to the Diggers, the team that came, saw and, many, many years later, conquered.

And finally, unconfirmed reports say veteran Cruiser pitcher Eddie Weismiller, 65-plus, will announce his retirement this off-season. "It'll be about the seventh straight season he's retired," teammate Greg Bosworth said. "Isn't that a league record?"

It is.

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