With the score tied, two outs in the bottom of the seventh and a runner on second base, Nick Mahovlich faced a full count.
In his last at-bat, Alberta pitcher Brad Michaeleski had struck him out looking in three pitches. Not this time.
Mahovlich ripped a single to centre field to score K.P. Hlatky and send British Columbia to the Canada Cup gold medal game with a 2-1 win over Alberta Sunday morning.
The outcome was expected, but the manner in which it happened was not. Alberta threw everything they possibly could at their western neighbours in a low-scoring cliff-hanger of a semifinal.
“I was expecting to blow them out, a quick game, maybe get out of here in five innings,” Mahovlich said bluntly of his pre-game expectations. “They played good.”
The game remained scoreless until the fourth inning, when Alberta third baseman Chayse Marion ripped a double down the left field line to score Kym Barthel.
B.C. countered in the bottom of the inning, although they had a chance to do much more. Barthel’s error on a grounder by Mahovlich loaded the bases with no one out. Another error on a dribbler by catcher Kelly Norris-Jones allowed Alex Calbick to score and tie the game.
But Michaeleski bore down and got three straight outs, fanning Roman Wick and getting Adam Quan and Kevin Biro to fly out. It would not be the last jam the starter got out of in a sterling performance.
In the bottom of the sixth, with two outs, Norris-Jones was hit by a pitch, followed by a walk to Jerod Bartnik and another beanball to Quan to load the bases. But Michaeleski got Biro to hit into the third out.
In the top of the seventh, Ryan Aiken walked and got to third base before Jordan Procyshen’s groundout ended the inning.
The bottom of the inning opened on a high note for Alberta when Tyson Popoff’s screamer to the left side was stopped by a diving Marion, who got it to first in time for Travis Steinke to scoop the out. But Michaeleski hit Hlatky and that would be the beginning of the end. Hlatky stole second base before Mahovlich brought him home.
“It’s very disappointing. We had some luck and played a good game against these guys,” said Michaeleski. “We’re very proud. I think we all thought we could get here, and we played well once we got here.”
B.C. now takes on the winner of the other semifinal between Ontario and Quebec this afternoon. Alberta plays the loser for bronze. Quebec reached the semi with a 8-3 win over Nova Scotia in Saturday night’s quarterfinal.
“We came here wanting to get a medal, so that’s our only goal right now,” said Michaeleski about the bronze game. “We can’t think about this loss. We have to focus on a medal.”
In earlier action Sunday, Newfoundland edged P.E.I. 2-1 to claim its first win of the tournament and ninth place. The game concluded a massive tailspin for P.E.I. after the province opened at 1-1 and blew a 9-1 lead against Saskatchewan Thursday night.