The Queen’s Golden Gaels men’s baseball team entered the first game of their doubleheader against the Durham Lords last Thursday fully aware that they were just beginning a baseball-packed few days. Despite playing five games in three days, Queen’s came out with a 4-1 record, ripping off four straight wins and showing the league that they could be a powerhouse in the playoffs.
The Gaels completed the season with an 11-6 record, finishing in second place in their division behind the York Lions (12-4).
Early Thursday morning, Kingston witnessed a nasty storm that saw winds of up to 130 km/h. Storm damage to their usual home at Megaffin Stadium forced the Gaels to open up the weekend at Woodbine Park against Durham College.
The first game of Friday’s doubleheader saw Queen’s lose a tight 4-2 battle to the Lords, but the Gaels’ performance level simply didn’t match Durham’s.
“They just outpitched us and robbed some of our hits with really good defense,” said Gaels pitcher Mike Bertoia.
The Gaels, however, quickly rebounded that night with a one-sided 7-0 victory. The win was fuelled by an excellent pitching performance by Mike Arsenault, who pitched a complete game shutout for the Gaels. In addition, the defence behind Arsenault was exceptional and helped contribute to the shutout.
“Arsenault obviously threw the ball extraordinarily well, but it was also a good team effort,” said third baseman Ben Concessi.
On the road in Toronto, the Gaels showed off their high-octane offense with a 10-8 victory over the York Lions on Saturday. The two teams battled it out, each taking the lead at different points in the game. However, thanks to three strong relief innings by Bertoia, and an early second-inning grand slam by centre-fielder Jason Sukhraj, Queen’s walked away with the victory.
“York is definitely a tough opponent, so getting a win here was a confidence booster,” said Concessi.
The Gaels finished the season with a twin bill against the George Brown College Huskies at Christie Pitts field.
The first game saw the Gaels burst out to an 8-1 lead, but falter a bit as their lead was cut to 8-7. However, the Gaels rode the momentum from Saturday’s victory against York to regain their focus and the lead and finished with an 11-8 victory.
The season finale saw the Gaels show off all their tools, with a strong performance on both offence and defence.
Nathaniel Erksin-Smith pitched four strong innings to start the game, followed by strong relief efforts by Jesse Kugler and Marc Greenberg. Greenberg ended the dominant weekend by striking out the side in the final inning.
On offence, Queen’s went ahead with a barrage of hits and runs over the course of the game, and when the smoke settled, the Gaels were left with a comfortable 10-2 win.
Concessi credited Arsenault’s stellar pitching performance on Friday night as the weekend’s turning point for the Gaels.
“His outing definitely sparked the beginning of our winning streak,” Concessi said.
The Gaels hit only one home run over the weekend, proving that they can win with the small ball and not have to rely on the long ball for offence.
The Gaels also had an injury-free weekend, and their health will allow them to fire on all cylinders for the upcoming playoff weekend.
However, the Gaels know that they will be in for a tough battle with the Lords, having split Friday’s doubleheader.
Even though the Gaels racked up four straight wins, centre-fielder Sukhraj said the team can still improve.
“[We could work on] gelling together and playing as a more cohesive unit,” he said.
Bertoia added the team needs to focus on playing hard throughout each game.
“Even though we are easily the best hitting team in the league, we just have a tendency to lose our intensity when we get an early lead,” he said. “But everyone knows how important playoffs are, so I don’t think it will be an issue.”
The Gaels look forward to repeating their success in the playoffs over Thanksgiving weekend. Queen’s is scheduled to play a best of three series against the Durham Lords, with the first two games on Saturday in Kingston, and Game 3 at Durham if necessary.
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