In an all-or-nothing night to determine the best of the Northwest League, the Vancouver Canadians marshalled their bats and made the most of erratic, home-park bounces on their way to a 5-0 win over the Boise Hawks.
Monday at Nat Bailey Stadium, C’s starting right-hand pitcher Tom Robson, a product of Ladner and the Langley Blaze, earned the biggest win of his career and retired 12 straight Boise batters to clear the decks through five innings.
With a two-run cushion, relief pitcher Alonzo Gonzales protected the lead when he came in from the bullpen, and then demonstrative, fist-pumping closer Chuck Ghysels closed the door on a Boise comeback.
He needed three outs and used 16 pitches to get there, striking out the first two Hawks hitters to face him. The third batter sliced a hard, bouncing ground ball past second base, where it was gloved by Dawel Lugo and thrown to first for the last out of the C’s single-A short season.
At the crack of the bat, his heart flew up into his throat, said Ghysels, whose jersey had also been ripped of his back. “I though it was through the hole — it was like, ‘Oh No!’
"I saw Lugo coming across to take care of it. I got pumped. I knew as soon as Lugo fielded it, it was game over.”
The C’s hoisted the Bob Freitas Trophy for the third consecutive year in a repeat of the 2012 best-of-three series, which they won in three games on the road in Boise.
In the regular seasons, the Hawks took the C’s for six games in 10 meetings and narrowly outscored them 46 runs to 40. Seven of the Hawks regular seasons players stayed home in the Idaho capital because of border issues. Two Cubans would not be able to return to the U.S. if they left the country, three American athletes did not have valid passports and two more, including the prospective starting pitcher, were waylaid because of non-specified reasons.
At the Nat for Monday night’s do-or-die contest, 5,157 fans filled the stands to see their hometown C’s defend their back-to-back championships. It was 23rd sell out of the season in 41 regular and playoff games. The club recorded 13 sellouts in 2012.
The champion C's, who cound only two Canadians on the roster among American, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, saluted their thousands of hometown fans with a booming rendition of "Oh Canada."
"It was epic," said Ghysels. "They’ve given us so much here. We wanted to pay a little tribute to them."
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