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Slopitch 2021: The Slugger Redemption (In photos)

Phoenix denied a three-peat

The drizzling rain proved to be no match for the fire in the hearts of the Bowen Island Slopitch League (BISL) players as they readied themselves for last Saturday’s final tournament. A fleet-footed executive, headed by President Lee Vincent, dodged numerous COVID-related bullets to pull off a truncated regular season marked by unprecedented league parity. A mere three wins separated the first and fifth place teams. Going into the playoffs only one thing was certain: anyone could win it all.

The first game of the day saw the fourth-place Basecombers take on the fifth-place Loggers. The Basecombers, the newest addition to the BISL, were keen to make their presence known—but the Loggers, lead by Duy Son and Courtney Morris, are always contenders and are known to be both highly-skilled and highly-rowdy—a deadly combination on the slopitch diamond.

After a few blistering back and forth innings, the Basecombers prevailed by a score of 22-12 and the Loggers took to the bleachers to provide good-humoured heckling for the duration of the tourney.

Iain Mitchell’s sixth-place Blu’s started the year with an impressive 3-0 record but then found wins hard to come by, finishing the regular season 4-1-10. As they faced off against the third-place Mad Batters, the Blu’s had their work cut out for them. Lead by Jay Cottrell, the ‘Batters were last season’s runners-up and took the field determined to claw their way back to the finals and take home the trophy that they had come within two runs of winning.

In a stunning upset, the Blu’s sauntered to a 21-12 win in a game that featured brazen baserunning and white hot bats. The ‘Batters nursed their first ever first round exit by taking up residence beside the Loggers and making storied contributions to the already colourful heckling.

The Sluggers secured their fourth regular season title in the last five seasons, giving them a bye to the second round. But despite their great regular season play, playoff success has consistently eluded the Sluggers. Would this finally be their year or would they be left scratching their heads and looking for answers?

The Sluggers played their first game against the warmed-up Basecombers. Coached by a combination of Andrea Layzell, Mike McKoryk and Henry Campbell the ‘Combers looked ready to take them on.

Never short on guile, the Sluggers made more than a few shrewd off-season moves, most notably nabbing Most Valuable Player Cyndl Arnold. Cyndl and the Sluggers wasted no time in treating the Basecombers to a three up, three down inning followed by piling up four runs. But the Basecombers would not be discarded like so much Fukuyama flotsam and jetsam. They battled back, forcing the Sluggers back to the bats in the bottom of the final inning down by three. As the winning run was driven in by Casey Grundy, the Slugger’s bench exploded in jubilation. Onlookers remarked that it looked like a scene from Cocoon. The final tally was 15-14.

Head coach of the Phoenix Jared Brown’s contribution to the BISL cannot be overstated. While the Phoenix team has existed for years (winning the last two championships), this season Brown, also a member of the league executive, took on an almost entirely new roster to ensure that everyone who wanted to play in the league could play. The BISL gives a “Superstar” award to those demonstrating an exceptional devotion to the league and a pure love of the game. It was no surprise that Brown was a recipient of a 2021 League Superstar Award.

But despite his selflessness, Brown is not adverse to winning. He took the new-look Phoenix to a second overall regular season league finish—priming the Phoenix for a potential three-peat. The Phoenix played their first game of the post-season against the upstart Blu’s.

While tight for the first three innings, the Phoenix bats proved to be too much. Iain Mitchell’s squad was dispatched 19-10, but you can bet that they’ll be back with a vengeance next year.

The final game pitted the defending champion Phoenix against the Sluggers. Though the Phoenix battled hard, and Player’s Choice award winner Daniel McGregor blasted a beautiful RBI, the Sluggers were simply too much to handle. They lifted the pennant with a 13-4 win in a game that featured impromptu commentating by Basecomber rookie Leah Gregg (who brought her own karaoke machine to the diamond).

The Sluggers were giddy with the win. Brad “Ripper” Rypien put it best: “[A]fter finishing first [almost] every year and losing in the first round, it feels pretty… good.” The Sluggers immediately began demonstrating the value of veteran experience in celebrating life’s great moments. 

The after party at Doc Morgan’s was all smiles. A particularly touching moment featured President Lee Vincent giving a League Superstar Award to past President George Zawadzki. Zawadzki is one of the founders of the BISL and received a standing ovation from those in attendance.

As the celebrating escalated at least one arm-wrestling match broke out, as well as a dance party and some heartfelt renditions of pop favourites. The players said their goodbyes and safely made their way home—but one couldn’t help but feel a bit sad that the season was all over.

But, of course, that’s why they invented “next season.”


Slopitch Players’ Choice Awards:

Most improved players

• Ted Duffield (Loggers) 

• Kristen Helssen (Mad Batters)

Most dedicated players

• Casey Grundy (Sluggers)

• Jason Jacquet (Loggers) 

Most outstanding outfielders

• Kelly Harper (Mad Batters) 

• Mike McKoryk (Basecombers) 

Most outstanding infielders

• Cyndl Arnold (Sluggers)

• Peter Blomberg  (Loggers) 

Most outstanding utility players

• Randi Topp (Sluggers) 

• Zack Riley (Loggers)

Most outstanding baserunners

• Fenella Jacquet (Loggers)

• Lee Cooper (Basecombers)

• Team/League Spirit

• Stef Shortt (Sluggers)

• Jason Jacquet (Loggers)

Most outstanding catcher 

• Daniel McGregor (Phoenix)

Most outstanding pitcher

• Scott Stevenson (Loggers)

Most outstanding player 50+

• Gillian Drake (Mad Batters)

Coach of the Year

• Duy, Courtney (Loggers)

Rookies of the year

• Ky Hasledine (Phoenix)

• James Nesbitt (Basecombers)

Most valuable players

• Cyndl Arnold (Sluggers)

• Peter Blomberg (Loggers)