For Team Québec, it really is true: the third time’s a charm.
Starting pitcher Jonathan Paquet was virtually flawless and Dave Champagne hit a two-run jack in the second inning to lead Québec to a 4-0 shutout of Ontario in Sunday afternoon’s Canada Cup semifinal.
Québec moves on to face British Columbia in the gold medal game Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m.
After beating the Québeckers in both round-robin tilts, it was clear on Sunday that the defending champs were facing more than they bargained for.
“Maybe a little bit,” said Ontario reliever Ryan Zimmer on underestimating their opponent. “We put it to them both times we played. We came out here today, their guy threw a gem and that was about it.”
Québec third baseman Jonathan Jones, who scored in the first inning on a deep double to centre field by Simon Brisebois, said his team was ready for anything Ontario threw at them.
“Since the beginning (of the tournament), we were keeping it close and all week we were talking about this,” Jones commented. “We were ready for this game and we came out strong. It’s a great feeling.”
Québec came out firing on all cylinders in this one, with Jones and Brian Bardis scoring on Brisebois’ double in the bottom of the first and Champagne’s home run in the second giving them a 4-0 lead. Ontario starter Kyle Willard was yanked at that point in favour of Zimmer, who shut the door the rest of the way with four strikeouts.
“They came out flying and they just got up on us and we dropped our momentum a little bit,” said Zimmer, who was Ontario’s MVP. “They had all the momentum throughout the game.”
As Jones pointed out, Paquet didn’t need much run support in hurling a complete game two-hitter that had Ontario’s batters absolutely baffled.
“With the pitcher we had on the mound, all we had to do was get two or three (runs) and we had them on the table,” said Jones. “They didn’t know what happened, they were nervous and we kept them to no points all game. So I think it was important to go hard at the beginning.”
Following a 2-4 round-robin that saw them lose twice each to Ontario and B.C., the Québeckers aren’t feeling much pressure heading into the gold medal game.
“We’re facing a good pitcher. We’ll just go out and have fun, like we have nothing to lose, and keep the same intensity and you never know,” Jones said.
Number two starter Brian Bardis will likely get the start, while ace Steve McKinnon is a no-brainer for B.C. after number two man Mike Ellis got the win over Alberta in the semifinal.
Meanwhile, Ontario will take on Alberta in the bronze medal game at 4:30 p.m. in an attempt to salvage a medal.
“We just gotta forget about this game and come back flying, all intensity, and hopefully come home with a bronze,” said Zimmer.