Sequels, when it comes to movies at least, often don’t live up to expectations.
But, when it comes to the 2017 AGR playoff tournament, they were exceeded.
In a rematch of last season’s championship game, the Pomquet Acadians faced the Guysborough Broadhorns, with Donnelly Archibald and Cory Avery, once again, taking the mound for their respective teams.
In this second installment – one that could be titled ‘Archibald’s Revenge’ – the Aspen native tossed a four-hit shutout in leading the Acadians to a 2-0 victory over Guysborough, Aug. 26, at Pomquet Fire Department Field.
Avery, who took the hard-luck loss, only surrendered three hits, including solo homeruns by Mark Dort and Robbie Doiron.
In 2016, Avery bested Archibald with a shutout of his own – 5-0 – to help the Broadhorns capture the AGR crown.
“I just tried to hit my spots,” Archibald said of his approach in the title-winning game.
He agreed location, rather than a particular pitch, was the key to his success.
“They know me and I know them,” Archibald said of the Broadhorns, noting they have faced each other, probably, 30 to 40 times over the past few seasons.
The championship game win was the second of back-to-back shutout victories, in succession, for the big right hander.
In a semi-final match-up with the St. Andrews Flyers, the Acadians won 4-0.
“Not much,” Archibald said, with a laugh, when asked if he had any gas left in the tank after hurling 14 innings in a little more than three hours.
In the top of the first, Avery helped set the tone with strikeouts of Robbie Doiron and Jonah Wright, which were sandwiched around an extra-base hit saving diving catch by centerfielder Elliot Wright on a sinking line drive off the bat of Archibald.
In the bottom half, the Acadian chucker matched his mound opponent, with a pair of strikeouts as part of a three-up, three-down opening inning.
The first offensive strike came off the bat of Broadhorn second baseman Alex Connolly, in the bottom of the second, when he dropped a single into shallow centerfield.
After the one-out hit, Guysborough could not cash in Connolly, who advanced to second on a wild pitch.
The Broadhorns threatened, again, in the bottom of the third, with Spencer MacKeen singling down the first baseline.
After the Acadian infield defense juggled a sacrifice bunt, off the bat of Wright, Broadhorns were at first and second, with only one out.
Archibald slammed shut the door by silencing the big bats of Aaron Long – on a strikeout – and Avery, who laced a lined drive that found the glove of Acadian first baseman Mike Deon.
In the top of the fourth, Archibald got the first Acadian hit on a one-out, line drive single to centre. The threat was short-lived, with Long making a leaping grab on a high-hopper to third and getting a force play, while Jonah Wright was caught stealing.
The second hit for the Acadians, which came to lead off the top of the fifth, opened the scoring. Veteran Mark Dort turned on an Avery offering and deposited it over the fence in left-center field.
“I think it was an outside rise that caught most of the plate,” Dort said, when asked about the pitch he connected on.
He noted he showed more patience in his second at-bat, which produced the championship winning run. In the second inning, Avery mowed down the Acadian centerfielder on three consecutive pitches.
“I got to see a couple more [pitches] and I guess I got lucky,” Dort said, with a laugh.
Bringing it home
Trailing 1-0, the Broadhorn offense sought the equalizer in the bottom of the fifth, with shortstop Shawn Long leading off with a double to right field that Dave MacPherson fielded on the hop after making a diving catch.
Archibald responded by striking out the side to preserve the slim one-run cushion.
In the top of the sixth, after Avery struck out a pair of Acadians, Doiron stroked a solo shot to left centre to double the advantage.
Archibald made the third out of the frame an interesting one, swatting one to deep right field, which Rene d’Entremont snagged with a twisting catch against the fence.
In the home half of the sixth, after Aaron Long singled up the middle, Archibald retired the dangerous trio of Avery, Joe LeBlanc and Connolly.
In the top of the seventh, Avery, who finished with nine Ks, retired Jonah Wright, Dort and Bryden Boudreau – in order – to maintain the two-run deficit.
The last gasp for the Broadhorns started with a soft liner to second by Tristan Richard, while Acadian catcher Blair Van Oirschot jumped from behind the plate to gun down Shawn Long, on an infield grounder, for the second out. On the latter play, Deon was able to hang onto the throw, which almost popped out of his glove.
In fitting fashion, Archibald secured the championship with a strikeout – his 11th of the game.
“We had a strong commitment [from our players],” the playoff MVP (Joe Andy MacDonald Memorial Award) said, when asked about the Acadians’ successes this season.
Pomquet only lost twice in 2017, once in the regular season and once in the playoffs.
“We were able to score runs and put pressure on teams,” Archibald said, adding the Acadians were also able to garner “timely hits” when they needed them.
Dort also talked about the ‘strong commitment.’
“It was a total team effort,” he said.
Dort added the Acadians were strong, both offensively and defensively.
“We had a lot of – what I would call – utility people, who were able to play different positions and contribute in so many ways,” he noted.
Walk it off
The Broadhorns punched their ticket to the title game, in dramatic fashion, on a walk-off, two-run home run from Aaron Long.
That blast to deep left field was the margin of victory in a 3-2, eight-inning win over the Heatherton Warriors.
“It was in a spot that I liked and I put a good swing on it, hoping to get a run in to tie the game,” Long said after the semi-final win.
The no-doubt, line-drive bullet into the trees came one pitch after Warrior starter Adam Anderson – along with his teammates – thought he painted the black with a game-winning third strike.
“It was close, but I thought it was a little in. I thought it was a ball,” Long said of the pitch.
He was asked if it was his first career walk-off home run.
“It’s not the first one, but there haven’t been too many of them, either,” Long said, with a laugh.
“It is always special to get one of those.”
d’Entremont, who was making his second start of the day, struck out the side in the top of the first inning.
Both teams garnered their first hits in the second inning, with Reilly Bowie stroking a single for Heatherton, while Connolly answered with a triple, but neither was brought home.
In the top of the fourth, Trent Deyoung doubled and Burton Chisholm Sr. walked to put Warriors on first and second. They moved up 90 feet, when d’Entremont made a fine play to get Bowie on a ground out.
The Guysborough hurler snuffed out the threat with a strikeout.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Broadhorns opened the scoring. After Avery flew out to deep right field, LeBlanc ripped a solo shot to left field to make it 1-0.
Guysborough flexed their defensive muscles in the top of the six, with d’Entremont snaring a hard line drive off the bat of Anderson, while Aaron Long gunned down Deyoung for the final out.
After retiring the first two batters on lazy fly balls to center field in the bottom of the inning, Anderson ran into some trouble. He walked Avery and LeBlanc flared a single to the outfield.
With runners at first and third, Anderson kept the Warrior deficit at one run.
On their last chance to rally, Chisholm Sr. led off the top of the seventh with a strike out, after a scrappy, multi-pitch at-bat.
Reilly Bowie followed with a line-drive single over third base, and then he stole second.
Jackie Chisholm cashed in Bowie with a hard grounder, just inside the third-base foul line, for a double.
d’Entremont retired the next two hitters to send the game to the eighth inning, tied 1-1.
In keeping with extra-inning league rules, each team started with a base runner at second.
Alex Chisholm of the Warriors started the top of the eighth with a sacrifice.
After a d’Entremont strikeout, Anderson helped his cause by stroking a two-out RBI triple to give Heatherton a 2-1 advantage.
With one out in the bottom half of the inning, after a lead-off strikeout, Shawn Long moved to third on an Elliot Wright dribbler back to Anderson.
With two outs, the stage was set for the walk-off heroics.
“He was unreal, he has been like that for us for years and years,” Long said of d’Entremont.
“I didn’t expect anything different from him.”
The stellar third baseman also credited Anderson for his work.
“He is a great pitcher,” Long said.
“They are a good team over there and we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy game.”
In the first semi-final, Archibald only surrendered three hits in a 4-0 win over the St. Andrews Flyers.
Craig McCarron took the loss.
Lead-off hitter Dustin Landry made it to first, to start the game, on an uncharacteristic error by Doiron.
Van Oirschot erased the base runner, gunning down the speedy Landry, when he tried to steal second.
In the first two innings, the other Flyer outs came via Archibald strikeouts.
After one-out walks to Doiron and Archibald, in the bottom of the first, McCarron ended the frame by inducing a pair of lazy pop outs to third baseman Kory Tate.
In the bottom of the second, Flyer first baseman Eriq Proctor made two top-notch defensive plays to help keep it scoreless.
In the top of the third, Proctor produced the first hit against Archibald, but the Flyers left two runners on base.
The Acadians took a 1-0 edge, in the bottom half of the inning, when Mike Deon, who opened with a double, scored on a two-out single from Archibald.
The Pomquet starter doubled the advantage, scoring on a triple from Jonah Wright – a fly ball that found the ‘Bermuda Triangle’ between three Flyer defenders in right-centre field.
The two-out surge continued with hits from Dort and Boudreau, but McCarron thwarted the rally.
After three innings, the Acadians led 2-0.
In the top of the fourth, Flyer catcher Andrew MacIsaac slammed an opposite-field double, off the fence in left center, but he was stranded.
In the Acadian half of the frame, they manufactured a third run, sparked by a Brian Gilfoy infield single and stolen base. After a wild pitch moved him to third, Doiron brought him home with an RBI single.
Boudreau made it 4-0 with a solo homerun in the bottom of the fifth.
In the final three innings, Archibald only surrendered one hit – a single from Proctor, his second of the game.
The third day of the playoff tournament began with a pair of games that wrapped up round robin action.
In the opener, d’Entremont finished with 12 strikeouts, while Richard, Avery and Leblanc chipped in two hits apiece, as the Broadhorns doubled the St. Josephs Chiefs (6-3).
Lawrence MacPherson took the loss, while Craig MacDonald led the Chief offense with a single and two RBI.
After surrendering six runs in the first inning, the Flyers rallied for an 8-6 victory over the Warriors.
McCarron, in relief, secured the pitching win.
On opening night of the five-team championship tournament (Aug. 23), the Acadians scored a pair of victories.
On their home field, Pomquet started with an 8-0, five-inning win over the Heatherton Warriors.
Archibald struck out eight in the win, while Anderson (4K) took the loss.
Jonah Wright led the Acadian offense with a two-run homerun and double.
In the nightcap, Mike Wolfe punched out six Chiefs en route to a convincing 13-1 win.
Logan Deyoung took the loss.
Deon led Pomquet with a double and three RBI, while Logan Kennedy stroked an RBI double for St. Josephs.
In St. Andrews, the hometown Flyers started with a walk-off win, courtesy of a bases-loaded single by Tate in the bottom of the seventh.
Tate also earned the victory in the 6-5 decision over the Chiefs.
Lawrence Macpherson took the loss.
In the final inning, Jason O’Leary, who also doubled earlier in the game, sparked the winning rally with a two-out triple to the wall in centre field.
After the Chiefs intentionally walked the next two hitters to set up the opportunity for a force play at any base, Tate sealed the deal with a line drive to left-centre field.
Dwayne Russell, with two doubles and two RBI, and Landry, with two singles and an RBI, helped lead the St. Andrews.
For St. Joseph’s, Arnold Murphy belted a homerun, while Kennedy chipped in a single, double and RBI.
In the back half of that twin bill, the Guysborough Broadhorns defeated the Flyers 10-2.
Avery started the offense rolling for Guysborough in the top of the first inning, with a two-run bomb to deep left-centre field.
He also doubled, while striking out 14 for the pitching win.
Proctor took the loss.
Along with Avery, Leblanc (two singles and two RBI), Richard (homerun and two RBI) and Connolly (two singles and two RBI) helped lead the Broadhorn offense.
For the Flyers, C. MacDonald homered, while MacIsaac singled twice and added an RBI.
Two nights later [Aug. 25], teams were back on the field for a pair of doubleheaders.
In a see-saw battle, the hometown Flyers relinquished a four-run advantage and dropped a 9-7 decision to the Acadians in St. Andrews.
Archibald, in relief of Wolfe, was the winner, while McCarron took the loss.
Sparked by a two-run homer from Archibald and a RBI single, courtesy of Gilfoy, the Acadians jumped to a 3-0 lead after the first inning.
In the top of the second, on a McCarron RBI single, St. Andrews sliced the deficit to 3-1.
On the strength of a three-run, bases clearing double, from MacIsaac, along with RBI hits from Steve MacIsaac and Matt MacDonald, the Flyers took a 6-3 advantage in the top of the third inning.
The lead was a short-lived one, as the Acadians put four runs on the board, in their half of the frame, including a two-RBI single from Van Oirschot, to take a 7-6 advantage.
On a clutch two-out single from Steve MacIsaac, in the top of the fourth, the Flyers knotted the contest (7-7).
In the bottom of the sixth, a pitch got away from McCarron, catching Shawn Broussard on the top of the helmet. The next hitter – Dave MacPherson – initiated a successful sacrifice.
Broussard moved to third, on a wild pitch, and scored on another one, which was also ball four to Boudreau.
After Archibald walked, the duo moved to second and third on another wild pitch.
Jonah Wright extended the Acadian lead to 9-7 with a sacrifice fly.
In the top of the seventh, Archibald secured the Acadian win with a three-up, three-down inning.
In the second game at MacPherson Field, the Warriors rode a six-run first inning – one keyed by a pair of errors and an Anderson three-run homer – to a 13-2, five-inning victory over the Chiefs.
In Pomquet, on the same night, the Broadhorns started with a 5-2 win over the Warriors.
Avery, with nine strikeouts, was the winner over Paul Purcell.
At the plate, the Guysborough starter led the way with a solo homer and two RBI, while Anderson (triple) and Alex Chisholm (double) were the top Heatherton hitters.
In the nightcap, Guysborough bested Pomquet 5-1.
d’Entremont, who took a perfect game into the fifth inning and struck out 11, garnered the win, while Archibald took the loss.
Handing out the hardware
Along with the championship trophy presentation, the AGR honoured individual performances – regular season and playoffs – at the close of the tournament.
The playoff MVP also garnered regular season honours for top pitcher (Gerald Chisholm Memorial Award) and hitter (Jerry Broussard Memorial Award).
“I was able to get locked in,” Archibald said, when asked about his AGR season.
He noted travelling less to play over the summer was a contributing factor.
“It takes a toll on your body,” Archibald said.
But that doesn’t mean he didn’t play a lot; he also suited up for the Brookfield Elks in the Halifax-based Shooters Bar and Grill Fastpitch League that, Archibald said, provided him with a lot of at-bats.
“That really helped a lot,” he added.
Archibald topped the AGR with five home runs and 21 RBI in the regular season.
Mitchell Bowman of the St. Joseph’s U-21 Chiefs was named rookie of the year, while his head coach Carl Kennedy Jr. received the Ernie Jack Chisholm Memorial Award.
Andrew MacIsaac of the St. Andrews Flyers collected the Hughie Smith Memorial Award, which recognizes sportsmanship and athletics in the regular season.
The pitching duo of Avery and d’Entremont received the Darryl Macpherson Memorial Trophy, which honours sportsmanship and athletic ability in the playoffs.