Micksburg – The Micksburg Twins defended their 2021 Greater Ottawa Fastball League (GOFL) title Friday night, winning the deciding game in the best-of-three championship final 5-1 over the Kars Aces.

The win completed a comeback for the Twins who dropped the opening game of the series 9-1, but rebounded with a dominant 11-0 win in Game 2.

Joran Graham was again his usual dominant self, allowing the Aces one run on two hits while striking out 19 Kars’ hitters. He did not issue a walk in the game.

His opponent, Brad Porter, allowed all five runs, three of them earned, on nine hits, fanning seven and walking two. Unfortunately for Porter, the Aces usually sound defence committed numerous errors that did not help their cause.

The game started good for the visitors, with Brad Pender leading off with a single and being driven home on a Kristian Knapp double to right centre. Graham retired the next three hitters in order via the strike-out to end the threat.

The Twins answered back in the home half of the inning. With one out Matt McIntyre drew a walk and moved to second on a Graham Single. Scott Conroy singled to send McIntyre home with the tying run. After Jared Steege was retired for the second out, Joe Mick’s hard grounder was misplayed, allowing Graham to head home with the go-ahead and eventual game-winning run.

After a scoreless second inning, the Aces threatened in the third as Chad Milne tripled to left and Pender singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. After Pender moved to second, Graham retired the next three batters in the middle of the line-up with strikeouts to keep the Twins up 2-1.

The Aces were retired in order in the fourth, with the Twins padding their lead in the bottom of the inning. John Enright caught the Aces napping with a bunt single, moving to second on a Ryan McIntyre ground out. Veteran Paul Griffith delivered a hard-line drive to right centre for a double that sent Enright home with the team’s third run. Griffith moved to third on a Quinton Rook ball that was misplayed allowing him to reach safely. Matt McIntyre then continued to be the Twins’ hottest bat, smacking a double to left centre that scored both Griffith and Rook for a 5-1 lead.

Neither team scored in the remainder of the contest.

After the game, Adam Brown, the longtime league convenor, presented the I4C Consulting Cup to Twins’ manager Paul Griffith for the third straight year and sixth time since they joined the GOFL in 2013.

Brown said the 2022 final between the same two teams was certainly more high-scoring than the 2019 final where each of the three games ended in 1-0 scores.

“It was definitely a much different final than the last time they played Kars, bur certainly, Porter, the 47-year-old pitcher for Kars, threw great,” he noted. “And, of course, Joran, after the first game, showed that he was the best pitcher in the league.

“We had eight teams this year and there was great crowd out for the final game and it’s nice to see a lot of young guys out playing here,” he added.

He noted how Joe Mick and John Enright had both homered in the Twins 11-0 win.

“One’s 19 (Mick) and the other is 21 (Enright), that’s pretty darn good to see,” he concluded.

Twins’ coach Jamey Mick said it’s great to see the team come out victorious again.

“It’s a good habit to have, for sure,” he said. “This is three in a row and sixth since 2013.”

Mick said after suffering a 9-1 loss in Game 1, he was confident the team would answer back in the remaining two games.

“I thought it would be a close game,” he said. “I knew they weren’t going to get too many runs, the way Joran pitched the last game.

He was ready to go and I knew it was going to be tough for them to get anything off him,” he added.

Mick suggested the fact Kars scored in the first inning may have not been that great for them despite taking an early lead.

“I think that might have been the worst thing they could have done. I don’t think he allowed a hit after that.

“He was the old Joran tonight for sure,” he added.

Mick said the errors obviously hurt the Aces, noting Porter pitched well, but the bounces didn’t go their way and the Twins capitalized on those mistakes.

He noted the Twins are playing lots of ball, not only in the GOFL, but in other leagues as well, resulting in big contributions right through the line-up.

“It’s really paying off for them. They’re hitting and fielding so much better. It’s great to see.”

He said it was great to be able to finish the series at home, rather than move the final to Carp, which had been discussed earlier that day, had the rain made the Micksburg field unplayable.

“When you get a couple of hundred people that watch our games regularly, it wouldn’t have been fair to them, so we worked a couple of hours here before the game to get it fit and win it in front of our hometown fans.”

He said it was tough when the Twins lost shortstop and lead-off hitter Andy McIntyre to injury in the divisional championship, but his teammates stepped in to fill the void.

“Andrew’s a tremendous player and a great kid and we missed him. But the guys stepped up and did it for him.”  

He paid credit to young pitchers, John Enright and Noah Fleurie, who stepped in when Graham was injured in the league opener and missed several weeks of action.

“The two young lads pitched well. again. They’re pitching lots in other leagues and I think that really, really benefits them to pitch here. The team gave them great run support.

“The future of the team looks great,” he added. “You take my age out of the equation, the average age is pretty young, which is great to see. They’re tremendous ballplayers, highly skilled, so we’re going to be hard to beat for a long time.” 

Mick said he did not foresee any changes in the team going forward, noting they will all be a year older, stronger and wiser.

After the victory, Graham said he felt really good in Games 2 and 3.

“I had my legs underneath me in Game 2 and just went out and threw,” he said. “I tried to keep them under three runs and I figured the bats would come alive, which they did.”

“Then anything can happen in Game 3 and it was the same thing,” he added. “I wanted to keep them under three and I knew we should score three or four off Porter.”

He credited guys throughout the order for doing a great job of getting on base and driving in key runs.

He admitted having difficulties in the first innings of games this year, adding he warmed up well Friday but it’s all about getting comfortable out there.

Like Mick, he had praise for Enright and Fleurie who took the ball when he was sidelined. (Enright posted a 3-1 record with one save, while Fleurie went 3-1-1 with one save).

“They did really well. I was out for eight or nine weeks minimum, and Noah and Johnny stepped in and did a really good job for us. “Kudos to them for stepping up and then I came in and they had to take a step back,” he added. “I’m sure that’s not easy either. They’re good young pitchers and the more they pitch the better.”