It started six weeks ago on Sept. 7 when the Brock Badgers throttled the McMaster Marauders 15-0 and 15-1 in doubleheader action. On Sunday, Oct. 19, at the same ball-park (Bernie Arbour Stadium) on a sunny, yet much cooler 6 degree day, the Badgers were crowned OUA baseball champions for the fourth time in the school’s history. Losing the last two consecutive seasons in a row certainly does sting; Manager Jeff Lounsbury in his 19th season at the helm, would be the first one to tell you that the culture he has built with Brock baseball program, and his outstanding leadership, has provided one of the best seasons in OUA baseball history.
The Badgers finished the regular season with an astonishing record of 17-1. They outscored their opponents 131-54. The Badgers finished off the season on a 14-game winning streak, and won a total of 30 games, including all of their playoff matchups, and non-conference games. For the Badgers, it was their 495th win as a program and fifth time in their 20-year history that they have won 30-plus games in a season, the first since back-to-back National Championship seasons in 1998 and 1999.
Prior to the start of the OUA Championship weekend, a few of the Badgers players were rewarded for their outstanding seasons. Manager Lounsbury, who guided Brock University to their first place record of 17-1, was named the OUA manager of the year. Starting right fielder, Justin Gideon was named the OUA’s top hitter. Gideon had an outrageous .469 batting average, .812 slugging percentage, 16 runs batted in, 18 stolen bases, and four home runs (two of which came in the championship weekend). Senior starting pitcher Justin Ayles was named the OUA’s top pitcher. Ayles posted a 5-0 record, pitching in 32 innings, striking out 27, with just a 0.56 earned run average. Also receiving credibility as outstanding were Badgers closer Phil Owen, who was named to the OUA first all-star team, and third baseman Dan Nicoletta who was named to the OUA second all-star team.
After the conclusion of the regular season, the top six teams in OUA baseball compete for one weekend in a double elimination tournament format to see who will receive the honour to hoist the OUA baseball championship trophy. With the Badgers finishing in first place in the OUA, they had a bye until the second game on Friday, Oct. 17, in which they took on the Guelph Gryphons. The Badgers went to their ace in Ayles on the bump, and he was dominant pitching eight innings of two run baseball, as they defeated the Gryphons 4-2. That meant the Badgers could move on to Saturday, Oct. 18., where they faced the Waterloo Warriors. The Warriorrs were one of the few teams to play Brock closely during the regular season, keeping both Badgers wins to just one run victories. Dylan Perego started Saturday and was electric, going the distance as the Badgers crushed the Warriors 6-1, guaranteeing their spot in Sunday’s championship game. As for the Warriors, they needed to beat the defending champion Laurier Golden Hawks on Saturday night in order to punch their ticket to the championship game. The warriors ended up shutting out the Golden Hawks 3-0, creating a re-match on championship Sunday.
With the Badgers just one win away from tasting the champagne and hoisting the OUA Championship trophy for the fourth time since 2002, they came in focused and jumped all over the Warriors early on Sunday. The Badgers managed to generate eight runs through the first three innings without hitting a single extra base hits. Walks, singles, and errors were the story of the Badgers offense on Sunday, but only one run would have been enough, as their pitching and defense were unstoppable. The Badgers crushed the Warriors by a final score of 8-0. Badgers starting pitcher Johnny Hutton, who injured his throwing arm in the fifth pitch of the Brock season in Hamilton six weeks ago, was the winning pitcher in the championship on Sunday, and was named game MVP. Hutton pitched six shutout innings, but it’s the defense in the sixth inning of third baseman Dan Nicoletta that he’ll remember the most. The bases were loaded, and nobody was out when the fast reflexes of Nicoletta came out at the hot corner to knock down the baseball, and turn the unusual 5-2-3 double-play as Hutton escaped the inning without a single earned run. Ryan Beckett, Jeff Baggaley, Daniel Veras and Phil Owen came in relief of Hutton to close out the game.
The Badgers, who were built with expectations of a championship or bust, were consistent all season-long, and all the hard work paid off when they were rewarded with the OUA’s greatest prize on Sunday. Congratulations to our Badger champions!