Farmington Hills, Michigan – The iCASE Baseball Academy brought home the Silver Medal after a closely fought, odd-ending 8-5 loss in the championship final of the USSSA Fall Tournament, but the game they went home talking about was the earlier must-win battle in which they staged a 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Michigan Arsenal.
With one out in the opening frame, Colton Gill drove a single to right and the speedster promptly swiped second and third base. Chris Iltshishin’s grounder to the right side plated Gill and gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead. But after the Arsenal replied with one in the bottom half, and then scored three more in second inning and a pair in the third, iCASE found itself down 6-1 heading into the sixth, and the parents were already starting to plug in “Home” on their GPS’s.
Nick Lannutti opened the inning with a base on balls, executed a textbook delayed steal of second, and scored on Nick Feren’s double. Consecutive singles by Brody Higgs, Jules Herrell, and Jacob Babstock led to three more runs, narrowing the deficit to one.
In the top of the seventh, Iltshishin singled to lead off. Following a fly out to centre by Jack O’Neill, Feren stroked a base hit to make it first and third. Brady Schnarr then ripped a two-run double, his third hit of the game, giving iCASE a lead it would not relinquish.
Iltshishin pitched a scoreless bottom half to notch the save for Colton Stewart. Feren, Ricardo Suarez, and Yanik Leroux also had toed the rubber for iCASE.
“Everyone chipped in somehow today, and it was especially pleasing to see a cohesive offense, hitters hitting behind runners, runners getting good jumps on steals, patience and confidence at the plate leading to deep counts but choice pitches, the little things that help you win one-run ball games,” said field manager/GM Tom Valcke.
In the gold medal game, iCASE took a 4-3 lead into the fifth inning over the Thunder, but their lack of pitching depth was exposed in the sixth, as four free passes and a couple of well-placed hits allowed five runs to cross the plate. The Huskies rebounded with a run in the bottom of the sixth thanks to hits by Leroux, Suarez and Stewart, but then, the USSSA tournament convenor abruptly called the game, due to … nobody seemed to be completely sure … the best conclusion that could be drawn was that due to some rain delays throughout the weekend that pushed back the start time of the final, that he had to go punch a clock elsewhere.
“The way it ended was, well, odd, to say the least. But truly, we didn’t deserve to win after our relief corps couldn’t find the strike zone in the sixth. A team that wins a tournament of this magnitude just doesn’t have an inning like that,” added Valcke.
“That being said, there were six other teams that wish they were playing in the final versus watching it, so we’ll chalk up the weekend as a whole in the success category.”
iCASE, who partners with the Avon Maitland District School Board and Stratford Northwestern Secondary School, now has an overall Fall record of nine wins against nine losses, with their next action slated for Allentown, Pennsylvania.