The Prince George Bantam Knights have been crowned the 2019 B.C. Minor Baseball champions, defeating the Cowichan Valley Mustangs 15-7 in the gold medal game this afternoon (Aug. 6) at Nechako Park.
Preston Weightman closed out the final four frames for the home team, recorded four strikeouts, all in a row between the fifth and sixth innings, and also crushed a home-run in the fourth inning to get his team to 10-7 at that point in the game.
HOME RUN ALERT 🚨 Shortstop Preston Weightman drives a solo shot over centerfield to make it a 10-7 score for the @PGYBAKnights in the @201915P Final | #CityOfPG @bcmbaseball @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/oH4MlUkby5— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) August 6, 2019
He says it takes more than just skill and effort to have a hot arm and be even hotter on the sticks.
“It’s just coming every day and trying my best,” said Weightman to PrinceGeorgeMatters, who was also named the MVP for his team in the championship final. “Practicing throughout the whole season and waiting for this day to come is what it was all about [...] This feels awesome, just coming in, being able to secure it this year and not falling short like we did twice last season.”
Almost 100 local residents, friends, and family took in the victory on home soil.
For Weightman, there were a few people he was very happy to witness him and his teammates lift the trophy, even though some nerves were tested in the contest when the Mustangs scored seven runs in the second.
“My parents and grandparents came out today; I just love playing in front of them,” he explained. “I think it's awesome they’re able to watch it and get the experience to watch [the game with] everybody here at home. We were giving up a few runs. We had bases loaded there for a bit, like, it was really stressful coming into that situation, but we came back and shut them down.”
The Knights led 1-0 after the opening frame, but the second inning saw both teams explode on offense, eight runs from Prince George and seven from Cowichan Valley, eventually making it a 9-7 score.
After Weightman’s solo shot, he went to work on the mound in place of starter Caleb Poitras, who threw 54 pitches in the finale.
Head Coach Curtis Sawchuk says Weightman’s overall athletic display stood out for him in getting the monkey off his team’s back from last season, missing out on the 2018 championship to Vancouver after giving up nine runs to lose 9-8.
“He comes up, leads off that [fourth] inning with a home run, and then he comes into the game and starts pitching, and completely shuts them down,” Sawchuk said to PrinceGeorgeMatters. “That’s huge, especially from a guy who was in a situation last year where it completely fell apart for him in that final. He responded with confidence today, so I’m very proud of him.”
Once the final out was put to paper, the team jumped for joy, embraced each other on the first-base line, and even some of their friends rushed onto the field to join in their celebration.
Coach Sawchuk went on to say some words, but added there were no words to describe his team’s play on the field.
“I’m just so proud of these kids. They’ve come so far, and especially with the heartbreaker we had last year, it was a feeling I never wanted them to ever feel again, so I’ve never been more proud of these young men, and they performed today like I’ve never seen.”
Both Prince George and Cowichan Valley were undefeated going into the gold medal match, both are power-hitting clubs, and both had not met each other at the 12-team tournament.
Sawchuk believes the Mustangs were very tough to get past at the plate, something he noticed the Island team did throughout the long weekend.
“They were mercying teams, very similar to what we were doing,” he said. “So that was a big thing for us. They have about three, four, five players in their line-up that could put the ball out of the park at any moment, and we saw it with that three-run shot in the second innning to make it a close game after we had a 9-0 lead and, you know, that could be very defeating. But I’m very proud of these kids for sticking with the game plan and never letting up. We kept our foot on the gas and we played the game.”
Earlier this morning, Prince George beat the Tri-City Thunder 20-9 in five-and-a-half innings in the semi-final match to get to the final.
Noah Lank threw four strikeouts on 81 pitches before James Yandeau came in his replacement.
This is also the first time in 32 years the local 15U AA Bantam and 18U AA Midget clubs won a B.C. Minor Baseball pennant in the same year.
The Knights will now travel to Chilliwack this weekend (Aug. 8 to 11) for the Baseball B.C. Provincials with hopes of getting to the Western Canadian Championships.