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Braves cap season with league champion, individual honours

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Troy Shantz

The Sarnia Braves have capped a nearly flawless season as champions of the Southwest Baseball League.

Sarnia’s AAA team shut out Ilderton 3-0 last week, sweeping the Red Army in the best of five series to claim the league title.

“They’re a really good team. They’ve got a lot of guys from Western and different schools so it was nice to beat them,” said Braves manager James Grant.

Sarnia’s offense struck early with a run in the first, and a pair of additional runs in the third was more than enough. Pitcher Wade Babula claimed the shutout, holding Ilderton to seven hits with seven strikeouts.

“Our starting pitching was there and we just had to score some runs,” Grant said.

The Braves ended the season with 39-3 record, ensuring it a place in the record books. Grant said the team’s consistency was a testament to its maturity.

“I think it’s just been an age thing. We have guys that have been with us now three, four, five years,” he said.

“They kind of just do what they’ve got to do to get it done.”

Grant noted players from outside Sarnia have shown interest in trying out next year. He said the team hopes to add more pitching and infield support.

Outfielder Julian Service was named Ontario’s most valuable player. Service led the province in batting average (.504), on-base percentage (.613) and was second in the league for home runs (10) and fourth in RBIs (45).

Scouts with the US-based Frontier Baseball league have been eyeing Service for two seasons, said Grants, who hopes he returns to Sarnia next year but understands it’s an opportunity.

“He’s got a couple years left that he could play pro, and if he can go do that, that would be great for him,” said Grant. “Just knowing that we gave him a place to play and keep his skills up… is pretty cool.”

Outfielder Mike Damchuk and infielder Justin Randall were both named first team All-Ontario.

Pitchers Anthony Shepherd and Nick Baljeu, as well as infielder McKenzie Maxwell, were named second team All-Ontario. Outfielder Alex McLean and shortstop Wade Babula were named to the third team.

The Sarnia Braves will return to the field again to compete in the Michigan Cup, which is held in St. Clair Shores starting Sept. 15.

 

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