Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart – Island Sports News: After a 4-3 victory over the visiting Cowichan Mustangs Wednesday night at Lambrick Park, the Victoria Selects have very quietly cruised to a 29-6 record and have clinched the 2012 BC Minor Baseball Midget AAA League title. They now qualify as the top seed for the 2012 Midget AAA Provincials that will be held in Chilliwack August 2nd-6th.
Playing under the shadow of their big brother Victoria Premier and Junior Premier Eagles, as well as the Victoria Premier and Junior Premier Mariners, the Selects are perhaps the best kept baseball secret in the City.
The Selects are a cooperative effort between Lower Vancouver Island Baseball and (LVI) and the Greater Victoria Baseball Association (GVBA). Under LVI management since 2001, Victoria Midget AAA teams won the BC's in 2002, 2006 and 2010, and the Nationals in 2002. The team came under the management of GVBA and their High Performance program this season and have continued that success.
The Selects Quinn Takhar slides safely into second base Wednesday, ahead of the throw to Cowichan shortstop Trevor Read (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
Playing under the guidance of head coach Rocky Vitale, the players have made the most of their opportunity to play in the Provincial AAA League, winning handily against the majority of the teams in the league, except for second place Kamloops, who have handed the Selects 4 of their 6 losses, and Tri-City who defeated the Selects twice.
Head Coach Rocky Vitale has guided the Selects to a 28-6 record and a first place finish in the BC Minor Midget AAA League (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
Asked about the keys to their success this season head coach Vitale noted, "We simply have a good team. Of all the teams I've had, this might be one that's deepest in pitching and we have kids that can play ball including 5 kids on this team that will be moving on to college scholarships. They are talented."
"We have some real leaders too" added Vitale. "I think Lucas Lapinski is the best player in the league – he pitches, he hits, he runs, he does it all – senior catcher Aaron Hopwood has played well and Jordan Van Stone has been real steady on the mound for us. All in all, its been a good season and we clinched the league on Saturday. The kids worked hard to clinch the title early so it was a nice thing to do."
Selects Head Coach Rocky Vitale touts third baseman Lucas Lapinski, here making a play Wednesday, as the best player in the league this season (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
When the subject of the relative lack of notoriety for the best Midget AAA team in the Province so far this season came up, Vitale was not too concerned, "We don't worry too much about playing in the shadow of the Eagles or the Mariners or being in the spotlight. It is what it is, and I think it was good that we were called the Selects and not say the AAA Eagles or AAA Mariners."
"We have an identity of our own and the kids are educated enough to know that all that really matters is that if you can win and get to the Nationals, then you are playing against the best players in the country. They grow up with that shadow, but I think we've moved beyond that now."
The Selects threatened early Wednesday but Thomas Strocel was gunned down at home plate and tagged out by Cowichan catcher Tyler Armstrong (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
Against the 18-17 Mustangs, the Selects headed into Wednesday's match-up having won all three previous meetings with the 6th place Cowichan squad, but with every game being decided by only 2 runs.
This game would end up no different as the Selects overcame a 1-0 deficit to go ahead 4-1, but then had to hang on for a 4-3 victory.
The Selects would use the game to send a number of different pitchers to the mound, with lefty Kris Barber getting the opening nod. After his pair of scoreless innings, Cody Newberry would throw 2 innings, giving up a run to the Mustangs in the top of the third as a result of a Select error and an RBI single from the Mustang's Dustin Jordan.
Left-hander Kris Barber (top) and righty Cody Newberry (bottom) saw action in the first 4 innings Wednesday (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
The Selects would respond in the bottom of the 4th inning though, scoring 3 runs, two of which were courtesy of wild pitches by the Mustang pitchers, and one on a bases loaded walk to Van Stone to jump into a 3-1 lead.
The Selects Kirpal Singh slides safely into second base ahead of the throw to Cowichan's Dustin Jordan (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
After a spectacular diving catch by Selects centre fielder Spencer Scotney helped new pitcher Jordan Judge keep the Mustangs off the board in the top of the 5th inning, the Selects would add another run in the bottom of the inning thanks to an RBI double by Lapinski.
Spencer Scotney's 5th inning diving catch into the shadows would be the defensive highlight of the game for the Selects (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
A 5th inning double by the Selects Lucas Lapinski would drive in what proved to be the winning run in the Selects 4-3 win (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
That would be the end of the scoring for the Selects and after Judge kept the Mustangs off the board in the 6th inning, Brandon Bates came on to start the 7th and look for the save.
The Selects Jordan Judge (top) would throw a pair of scoreless innings, while Brandon Bates (bottom) would find himself in trouble to start the 7th (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
Bates would soon find himself in trouble however and after Dustin Jordan stroked his second RBI hit of the game to make it 4-2 with nobody out and runners at 1st and 3rd, Bates was pulled in favour of Lapinski.
Selects shortstop Thomas Strocel gets the force on Cowichan runner Dustin Jordan in the 7th inning Wednesday (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)
The move proved to be a good one, and after allowing another Mustang run on a near double-play, Lapinski induced a pair of fly outs to end the game and save the 4-3 win.
The multi-talented Lucas Lapinski would come on in the 7th to close out the Selects 4-3 win (Christian J. Stewart/Island Sports News)