Given a hero’s welcome by the home crowd following the opening ceremonies, Team Saskatchewan struggled under the pressure early on but rebounded for a 7-2 win over Manitoba Wednesday night to start the Canada Cup on the right note.
Kindersley’s Sean Flanagan entered the field to a raucous set of bleachers jammed with people and took some time to settle in, with a couple of errors in the early going, but he went on to a 2-for-4 performance with a walk and a two-run double in the fourth inning.
“He struggled with a couple of balls in the infield at the start, but he turned it around and got a couple of hits,” said Saskatchewan coach Corey Borthwick. “They weren’t hard hits, but he got two RBIs.”
Flanagan, playing in a complex recently named after his grandfather Jerry, said the double helped him regain his composure. He added that he was surprised by the level of noise from the crowd.
“It wasn’t a great hit, but it worked, I guess.”
Manitoba took a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning when Jamie Thordarson scored on a ball put in play by Brett Hiebert that was fumbled. Ryan Johnson then singled to right field to bring home a second run.
The home side turned the tables at the first opportunity, though, scoring three in the bottom of the inning. Dylan Ramsey crossed the plate on a wild pitch to cleanup hitter Dakota Fedak, and Tyler McWhirter’s single to centre field scored Fedak and Cole Bauml. Flanagan then ran out an infield single to load the bases, but Brett Forst grounded out to end the inning.
Saskatchewan put the game out of reach in the fourth with four more runs, including two on Flanagan’s double. Fedak drove in one with a long ball to the centre field fence that nearly went over, but he settled for a triple. He then scored on a wild pitch to Bauml.
Sask. lit up Manitoba's returning ace, Paul Schaak, tagging him for four earned runs on eight hits in just three and two-thirds. He also walked five batters. Sask. starter Tanner Spencer got through six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits.
Borthwick said the win affirmed to him that Sask. has a strong chance to win the B pool, though the coaching staff had their team ahead of Manitoba’s entering the tournament.
For Flanagan, with the most nerve-wracking moments over, concentrating on baseball should be much easier for the rest of the week.
“I was pretty nervous when it first started, but after the first inning it got better for me,” he said. “(I have to) play the best I can and limit my mistakes.”