Queen’s Baseball makes history by winning OUA Championship

Magic happens when baseball and pumpkins meet

The Gaels won the gold for the first time in program history.
Credit: 
Supplied by Charity Matheson

Queen’s baseball met the University of Toronto for the OUA gold medal matchup on Saturday—the furthest the team has advanced in program history.

However, since playing Carleton in the first regular season weekend and taking three of four games, Queen’s knew they had a chance to be special.

“We saw how much improvement our pitching staff had made at that point in time,” Head Coach Jeff Skelhorne-Gross said in an interview with The Journal.

“After that weekend, I think we kind of looked around at each other and said, ‘okay, we have a good chance to win the east region if we can hang in there and beat this team on a consistent basis.’”

When Queen’s stepped out on the diamond for the final game of the season, they carried their prized mascot with them: a lopsided pumpkin. Queen’s baseball has always been known for its quirky and obscure traditions, so no one was surprised.

“I found that good teams usually have some weird things about them that they do or say or chant or sort of believe together, and our team was full of that kind of stuff,” Skelhorne-Gross said.

In the first inning, the Gaels realized they had their work cut out for them—U of T scored five runs right off the bat.

Queen’s responded by cutting into the Blue’s lead with a two-run home run in the top of the third, but U of T came back with two more runs.

Despite Jordan Leishman’s excellent pitching, U of T kept scoring runs.

Queen’s was down a seemingly insurmountable 8-3 at the start of the seventh inning. Faced with such an intense deficit, Queen’s could have given up. They could have been satisfied with a silver finish—second place would still have made history.

Instead, pitcher Jimmy Powell let the pumpkin have it.

Queen’s has a tradition of using a bat to take their mid-game frustrations out on their pumpkin mascots. Skelhorne-Gross described the act as “a way of getting the demons out.”

“I know this sounds silly, but this was a team that was full of that kind of magic,” he said of the pumpkin smashing providing a fresh start.

Queen’s started their comeback with three runs in the seventh inning. In the eighth, the team demonstrated some real magic and scored six runs in a bat-around inning as U of T lost their once-impressive lead.

According to Skelhorne-Gross, having the pumpkin around made the stress and pressure of the game more manageable.

“It prevents them from getting worn down during these weekends of really intense games,” he said. “As the coach, sometimes they drive me nuts [but] it was helping them stay loose in a big game.”

In the end the pumpkin made all the difference. U of T scored one more run, but it didn’t mean much against the 10 Queen’s earned post-pumpkin smash.

Skelhorne-Gross says the whole team deserves credit for the victory; all 25 players and six coaches poured their hearts out for the win, and they had fun doing it.

“They’re probably the funniest group of kids I’ve ever coached. They’re quirky,” he said.

It would have been easy for Queen’s to focus too intensely on their opponent and be scared by the current titleholders, but they chose to focus on themselves and their game. Their good laughs and inside jokes kept them loose and allowed them to bounce back.

Still, the outcome shocked everyone, including their head coach.

“How did they do it? I don’t really know. I think you’ve got to give them full credit,” Skelhorne-Gross said. “It’s the hardest I’ve ever seen a team work to win a baseball game.”

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