By Jacob Noseworthy
Friday’s set of games marked the end of the round-robin of the 2017 Grand Forks International as an additional three teams were eliminated while the top eight found out their seeding going into the Money Round.
After a long day of baseball, finally ending later than 1:30 a.m. on Canada Day, the Northwest Honkers and West Coast Guns finished their tournaments, with the 2016 quarterfinalist and semifinalist, respectively, being eliminated from Money Round contention, along with GFI-newcomer Okanagan Athletics.
Everett Merchants 4 at North Sound Emeralds 10
W: Lucas Ford L: Bret Ricklefs Home Plate Umpire: Corey Klein
The North Sound Emeralds finished their round-robin off strong with a late comeback to win the first game of the day against the Everett Merchants 10-4.
After a scoreless first four innings, the Merchants were the first to get on the board with a four-run home run in the top of the fifth.
Beyond that, it was all Emeralds, however.
North Sound tied the game in the sixth inning at four and took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh before a commanding five-run performance in the eighth to secure the victory.
Errors cost Everett, especially in the eighth inning where they committed three errors on top of poor pitching.
With the win, the North Sound Emeralds finished first in Division Three with a 3-0 record, 28 runs for, and only eight runs against, good enough for the top seed in the Money Round.
The Everett Merchants finished third with a 1-2 record, 12 runs for, 16 runs against, and the seventh seed in the Money Round as one of two wildcards.
Northwest Honkers 6 at Kitsap BlueJackets 7
W: Brandon Maassen L: Tanner Braun Home Plate Umpire: Rhonda Pauls
The Kitsap BlueJackets booked their ticket to the Money Round with a 7-6 win over the Northwest Honkers in an entertaining game that ended controversially.
Although the BlueJackets had won the two Pacific International League contests between these two teams in 2017, the game was incredibly close with the score deadlocked at three after four innings.
It looked as if the Honkers would be returning to the Money Round as they held a 6-4 lead in the middle of the ninth, but a ninth inning rally and a contentious call at the plate gave the BlueJackets the victory.
With the score 6-5 for the Honkers, there was one out and runners on first and third.
The BlueJackets then flew out to right field for the second out creating a play at the plate.
It appeared as if Honkers catcher Zach Zurbrugg tagged Anthony Gosline out at the plate for what should have been the third out, but home plate umpire Rhonda Pauls called him safe, leading to a 6-6 tie and the BlueJackets scoring on the next play for the win.
Despite the controversial ending, the game was an entertaining and evenly matched contest.
The loss knocked the Northwest Honkers out of the tournament as they finished third in Division Two with a record of 1-2, 19 runs for, and 20 runs against.
The Kitsap BlueJackets finished their round-robin in second place with a 2-1 record, 30 runs for, and 20 runs against, which gave them the sixth seed in the Money Round.
San Francisco Seals 8 at Okanagan Athletics 4
W: Moises Lopez L: Sam Stelnick Home Plate Umpire: Corey Klein
The third game of the day featured a San Francisco Seals comeback to win 8-4 over the Okanagan Athletics.
Although the Athletics put together a strong first inning giving the crowd-favourites a 3-0 lead early, it was not enough, as the Seals came back to tie the game at three in the fourth inning and won thanks to strong sixth and eighth innings.
Despite the first inning, San Francisco’s pitching staff and defence played well, allowing Okanagan only four walks, two hits, and one run that came from a lead-off home run in the sixth inning.
With the win giving the San Francisco Seals first in Division Two with a perfect 3-0 record with 28 runs for and 10 runs against, they earned the second seed in the Money Round.
The Okanagan Athletics finished fourth in their division with a 0-3 record, 11 runs for, and 38 runs against.
Westchase Express 6 at Seattle Studs 7
W: Jacob Howard L: Sean Tracey Home Plate Umpire: Scott Eckardt
After an exceptionally long ten-inning game, the Seattle Studs won 7-6 over the Westchase Express.
The Westchase Express got off to a strong start leading the defending champions 4-0 in the middle of the fifth inning.
At the bottom of the fifth, the Studs offence seemed to spark, however, as three-run performances in the fifth and sixth innings put the Studs ahead 6-4.
The Express tied the game at six in the eighth inning, and it wasn’t until the bottom of the 10th inning that Seattle was able to break the tie and win the game.
Notably, the usually defensively solid Studs committed six errors throughout the game, allowing Westchase to force the game into extra innings.
The victory gave the Seattle Studs a 3-0 record with 26 runs for and 14 runs against, good for first place in the difficult Division One and the third seed in the Money Round.
The Westchase Express finished their round-robin play in third in Division One with a record of 1-2, 16 runs for, and 17 runs against, allowing them to earn the second wildcard spot and seed eight in the Money Round.
Burnaby Bulldogs 9 at West Coast Guns 1
W: Brandon Chernoff L: Joe Siegel Home Plate Umpire: Unknown
Despite the 8 p.m. game, which officially started at 11:10 p.m., finishing at 1:37 a.m. on Canada Day, the seven-inning game was relatively short, with the Burnaby Bulldogs winning the last game of the round-robin play 9-1 over the West Coast Guns.
Although the first four innings of the game went relatively quickly for the few fans left at James Donaldson Park, with the Bulldogs up 1-0 heading into the top of the fifth inning, two four-run innings in the fifth and seventh gave Burnaby the win as it ended due to the eight-run mercy rule.
Despite the late hour, the Bulldogs put together a strong performance in front of the small but supportive crowd.
Notably, the Guns’ first base coach was the first to be ejected from the tournament when he argued to Steve Boutang that a hit that landed on the first base line, with a noticeable cloud of lime when the ball hit, was fair instead of foul.
The Burnaby Bulldogs finished second in Division One with a 2-1 record, 19 runs for, and 11 runs against, giving them the fifth seed for the Money Round.
The West Coast Guns ended their tournament 0-3, fourth in their division with nine runs for, and 28 runs against.
10 a.m. – 1) North Sound Emeralds vs 8) Westchase Express
1 p.m. – 2) San Francisco Seals vs 7) Everett Merchants
4 p.m. – 3) Seattle Studs vs 6) Kitsap BlueJackets
7 p.m. – 4) Alaska Goldpanners vs 5) Burnaby Bulldogs