Sarnia Braves’ remarkable baseball season continues

Julian Service of the Sarnia Braves hits a home run during a game last year against Courtright. Service has been ian important part in the Braves lengthy win streak this season. Photo by Hayley Trigatti

Troy Shantz

It’s been a perfect storm this season for the Sarnia Senior Braves – and that’s a good thing.

The Braves have stretched their season-long win streak to 26 games and a number one ranking in Ontario, a remarkable record that according to team manager James Grant is the result of the AAA club firing on all cylinders.

“I don’t know how we’ve done it,” he admitted. “We’ve just had stellar pitching and been able to score runs.”

The Lakeside Invitational was the most recent test for the 23-man roster. Not only did the Braves win the London-area tournament, they didn’t allow a single run over five games, becoming the first team in the history of the 28-year tournament to do so.

In fact, they allowed opponents just 19 hits.

The Braves pitching staff has established itself as a major threat. Right-hander Mike Damchuk has an earned run average of 1.9, and Wade Babula and Nick Baljeu, who have each tallied over 300 career innings, carry 2.56 and 2.15 ERAs respectively.

New throwers Anthony Shepherd and Jake Near have also had strong performances.

“This is the most pitching we’ve ever had,” Grant said.

On offence, the Braves have a team batting average of 399.

“We’ve got speed at the top, power in the middle, and contact guys all the way through the order,” he said.

“I don’t think you see too much of that anymore where you can put nine guys out there that can hit the ball well.”

The Braves were already good before this season, posting a record of 30-14 in 2015 and going 31-10 last year.

“We just keep getting better,” said Grant. “We’ve added some pretty good pieces.”

Twenty of the 23 team members made their way up through the Sarnia Braves minor baseball system, Grant confirmed.

“There’s a lot of pride there with the players we have that are from Sarnia.”

And word has spread the Braves have a good thing going. Infielder Craig Vannus and pitcher Jake Near both relocated to the area to play with the team.

Grant said 23-year-old Julian Service has caught the eye of scouts from the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He suspects the outfielder will see more tryouts in the off-season.

The Braves still haven’t played St. Thomas, one of the top teams in the region. And they are scheduled against the two-time Canadian champion Tecumseh Thunder in the first round of the Ontario Championships, scheduled for the August long-weekend.

The Thunder already have a score to settle, having come up short against the Braves at the Lakeside Tournament.

Sarnia is on the road for the rest of the season, but the playoffs begin in August and it may be the team to beat – and watch.

Games schedules are available at the Sarnia Braves website, www.sarniabraves.org