Maple Ridge has a rich baseball history, and the 2023 version of Ridge Meadows Royals College Prep team carved out their place in that story over the weekend.
The Royals hosted and won the provincial championship tournament at Hammond Stadium.
They beat North Fraser of Burnaby 6-1 in the gold medal game. Payton Godwin of Maple Ridge was the story of the game as the starting pitcher. The Grade 12 had separated his pitching-arm shoulder before the season started, and missed the first half of the campaign. So he had only pitched a handful of innings before he took the mound in the gold medal game.
“We babied him – we wanted to save him,” said coach Derek Doucette.
It turned out to be a good strategy. Godwin was ready to dominate, and he threw a complete seven innings, allowed five hits, struck out five, and led his team to victory.
“He threw the last pitch, it was caught in the outfield, and was mobbed by his teammates,” recalled Doucette.
The Royals started the tournament with an emotional 8-6 win over the Chilliwack Cougars – a team they have played eight times this year. The two scrappy squads had sharpened their rivalry.
“We know each other well – there’s lots of emotions,” explained Doucette.
His team was trailing by a run in the sixth of a seven-inning game, when Mason Lemmen hit a two-run homer to put his Royals ahead. Linden Happell next hit an RBI double for the insurance run, which capped a great performance for him, as the 15-year-old also started the game on the mound.
It was a huge comeback win for the hosts, Doucette said, because his team finished second in league play, and Chilliwack was right behind them in third.
Next up was the Central Okanagan’s COMBA Sun Devils out of Kelowna, and an 8-6 loss for the Royals. There were a lot of missed plays on defence, and errors, explained the coach.
The third contest was a 10-0 mercy rule shortened game, where Kaleb Therrien pitched a gem, allowing just two hits through six innings, and striking out four.
The entire roster contributed on offence, turning the game into a route.
The 2-1 record put the Royals into a semi-final game against the Cloverdale Rangers, which they won 8-4.
Doucette gave props to his young pitcher Happell, who pitched six and one-third innings, with seven strikeouts. His club also drummed out 12 hits in the game, to blow it open.
The coach said his team was sparked all weekend by the play of shortstop Derick de Vera, who more than once ranged down the third base line to make catches, and generally played outstanding defence.
He also gave props to second baseman Markus Jack, who was a sparkplug both offensively and defensively through the tourney.
Now the team will play the Premier Baseball League’s entry, the Mid-Island Pirates, in a three-game series this weekend in Richmond. The winning team advances to the national championships, in Fort McMurray, Alberta in August.
Other members of the championship team are Jordan Glowinkowski, Elliot Howker, Read Hutchinson, Jamie Huurman, Ben Leslie, Ryan Sam, Nicholas Marsh-Deol, Hudson Silcox, Jacob Tanaka, and assistant coaches Don Hutchinson and Sammy Mcardle.