On Sunday evening (August 11), little Nova Scotia (population 967 thousand), after a win over heavy favourite Quebec (population 8.45 million) in the Semi Final, took on an even heavier favourite in the defending champions Ontario (population 14.49 million) in the Gold Medal game of the 2019 Canada Cup.
Looking back at tournament history, in the 30 previous years of Baseball Canada Cup competition, Ontario had taken home a total of 19 medals – 9 of those were Gold including the one in 2018. In that same time, Nova Scotia had won 2 medals, both Bronze – one in 1995 and one in 2018.
In addition, Ontario had 4 players on their roster who were named to the Canadian Junior National Team (JNT) the day after this game – Nova Scotia had none. This matchup was yet another David and Goliath type of battle.
Nova Scotia was the Home Team and sent Duncan McLaughlin to the mound. He got off to a bit of a rocky start by allowing a single to Justin Carinci who promptly stole 2nd on the next pitch. McLaughlin kept his cool though, inducing Owen Cassie to pop out to 2nd and striking out both JNT player Elijha Hammill and cleanup batter Joshua Niles to end the threat.
In bottom of the 1st Ontario responded with starting pitcher Turner Spoljaric, son of six-year Major Leaguer and former Toronto Blue Jay Paul Spoljaric. Nova Scotia wasted no time getting things going. Leadoff hitter Layton Cuvilier got things started with a Walk. Nick Gravel then worked a Walk of his own. Noah Boutilier then hit a line drive Single to score Cuvilier. Spoljaric then struck out the next batter, and induced back-to-back ground outs to end the inning. The score was 1 to 0 Nova Scotia after 1 complete and for the next three innings this game was a pitcher’s battle.
In the 2nd inning, McLaughlin struck out Drew Howard looking, induced a ground out from Zachary Laurie, and struck out Kieran Pook swinging. In the 3rd inning, he induced groundouts from Owen Ellis and Tyler Chong, and struck out Carinci looking. In the 4th McLaughlin continued baffling Ontario hitters, getting Cassie to line out on the first pitch, striking out JNT team member Hammill again and then striking out cleanup hitter Niles as well. The pitching magic continued into the 5th with Howard grounding out before McLaughlin struck out Laurie looking. After Pook hit a single, McLaughlin struck out Ellis swinging to end the threat.
Going back to the bottom of the 2nd, in that inning Spoljaric started to find his groove. He struck out the first batter of the inning but then gave up a Walk to Nova Scotia DH Shane Cowan. After that he was able to get another strikeout and a groundout to close out the inning. In the 3rd inning Spoljaric induced a groundout and then a popout to start the inning. He then issued another Walk to NS Cleanup hitter Cam Rendell. He worked out of that as well with a strikeout to end the inning. In the 4th, it was more of the same as Spoljaric induced a popout to kick the inning off and then hit Courson O’Rourke to put another NS runner on. True to form, Spoljaric stepped up again, striking out the next two batters to end the inning.
In the 5th inning, with the top of the order up, Nova Scotia got the offensive attack going again. Cuvilier kicked things off with a Triple past a diving Right Fielder. Gravel then Walked and stole 2nd on the first pitch. Boutilier then hit a hard line drive, his second of the game, to drive in both Cuvilier and Gravel. Despite having a rough start to the inning, Spoljaric kept his cool and did his work, striking out the next 3 batters to end the inning. The score was now 3 to 0 for Nova Scotia.
In the top of the 6th Ontario needed to respond right away with some runs of their own, and they did that. Chong kicked things off with a line drive single. An error on a ground ball put in play by Carinci put runners on 1st and 2nd and Cassie then walked to load the bases. JNT member Hammill then shook off his two previous strikeouts and came up with a Single to Right Center to score Chong. With the bases still loaded Joshua Niles then walked to to score Carinci.
With the score now 3 to 2, the bases loaded, and no outs, Nova Scotia reliever Ethan McLellan replaced McLaughlin on the mound. McLellan was throwing hard and immediately calmed things down by getting Howard to hit a ground ball back to him resulting in a fielder’s choice at Home. He then struck out both Laurie and Pook swinging to end the rally.
In the bottom of the 6th Ontario brought in University of Connecticut commit and JNT team member Calvin Ziegler in to shut down the Nova Scotia bats. He did his job, striking out the first two batters he faced swinging. The third batter Ryan Fitzgerald then hit a ball between 1st and 2nd but Ziegler failed to cover meaning 1st Baseman Niles had to make a diving tag of 1st base to get Fitzgerald out by a hair to end the inning.
In the top of the 7th, with the score 3 to 2, McLellan came out to finish the game and he was still throwing gas. He struck out Pinch Hitter Patrick Mulligan looking on 4 pitches. He then struck out Chong looking on 3 pitches. Ontario leadoff hitter Carinci then hit a ground ball Single to get things started for Ontario. With a 1 and 1 count McLellan tried a pickoff at first and it looked like he changed his mind half way through it, bouncing a soft throw past 1st Baseman Breton Sibley. That put Carinci on 2nd in scoring position with the potential game tying run. McLellan did not let that shake him though. He got back to work and struck out Caissie looking to end the game.
Nova Scotia had just done the impossible, beating two powerhouse teams in one day that they were not supposed to beat. Nova Scotia took home their first ever Canada Cup Gold in 31 years by winning their first ever Gold Medal match-up. David had defeated two Goliaths this day.
Duncan McLaughlin got the Win for Nova Scotia going 5 innings with 9 Strikeouts, 2 Walks, 4 hits, and 1 Earned Run.
Ethan McLellan earned the save facing the minimum 6 batters over 2 innings with 5 Strikeouts, No Walks, 1 Hit, and 0 Earned Runs.
Noah Boutilier led NS at the plate going 2 for 3 with all 3 Runs Batted In. For that performance Boutilier won Player of the Game.
Layton Cuvilier had the only other hit of the game for Nova Scotia and scored 2 runs.