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Pursuit: Luck? The Sudbury U12 Shamrocks don’t need luck

The defending Baseball Ontario Selects champions moved up to A-level this season and put their skills to the test against tougher talent — that tougher talent was in for a challenge
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The Sudbury U12 Shamrocks moved up a level for the 2022 summer season to put their skills to the test.

The Sudbury U12 Shamrocks, defending Baseball Ontario Selects champions, knew they were in for a greater challenge when they made the jump to A-level play this summer.

Unfortunately, the first few months threw them a bit of a curve ball: three tournament appearances that resulted in three championship banners with zero losses along the way could have easily resulted in a team that was ill-prepared for what lay ahead as the locals hosted provincials for the second straight year this past weekend.

“We didn’t get into many high leverage situations during our season,” noted head coach Richard Spadafora, his team earning all-Ontario bragging rights for a second straight year. “As a coaching staff, we tried to put kids in situations where we knew they would struggle and we worked hard to allow them to work through those struggles.

“That was really our message.”

Message received.

The Shamrocks would taste their first defeat of the year at a rather inopportune time, dropping their second game of the 12-team tournament 5-3 to Lasalle on Friday evening. Given the format was a double-knockout schedule for this event, there was little wiggle room remaining.

Cue a run of five straight wins – and while some were extremely impressive, including a lopsided triumph in the finals over the Guelph Royals, a couple of encounters could have easily gone either way, including a 15-12 extra inning affair earlier on Sunday against those same Royals as well as a 19-17 victory Saturday against the Niagara Falls Falcons that featured a wild seventh inning.

“Our team has been together since rookie ball season and they’ve grown significantly,” said Spadafora. “I look at the trust and confidence they have in each other’s abilities, the trust in our defence and the trust in our ability to come back with our bats.”

That hitting prowess was evident from the start. Ryan Thompson belted a three-run homerun in the bottom of the first inning of the gold medal game, sparking a double digit opening inning rally as every single one of the Shamrocks reached based and scored in the final. 

While great performances at the plate could be found right throughout the lineup, Ty Belanger and Tayden Smith, in particular, stepped up in a big way time and time again.

But at this level of ball, games will be decided on the mound, a reality that played nicely into the hands of the home side. 

“I’ve always thought that our pitching depth is a huge asset,” said Spadafora. “Yes, we do have some kids that we rely on in key moments but 11 of our 12 kids pitched this weekend, and the majority pitched in multiple games.

“We focused heavily on trying to build confidence and build arm strength for all of our kids.”

Dacey Dupuis led the charge, earning the start in an opening game 14-7 win over the Ancaster Angels and also in the final. Flame-thrower Seamus Murphy was a constant force, most notably in the extra inning affair, with the likes of Liam Mahoney eating up valuable innings along the way.

Over and above the games above, the Shamrocks also downed the Royal York Cardinals 15-5 and blanked the Lasalle Titans 6-0 in their semi-final rematch (Seamus Murphy and Bradley Eady combine for the shutout).

Rounding out the 2022 Sudbury roster were Adrien Cecchetto, Jacks Murphy, Andrew Roney, Jacob Roy and Matteo Spadafora, with Craig Thompson, Joey Dupuis, James Eady and Adam Cecchetto also assisting in the coaching capacity.

Looking ahead, the message heading into 2023 is not greatly dissimilar to where the team was a year ago at this time. “A lot of these kids will need to be challenged more and developed more for next year,” noted coach Spadafora. “We are definitely moving up to AA to prepare them for what is to come.”  

Randy Pascal is a sportswriter in Greater Sudbury. Pursuit is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.