Rivalries are a huge aspect of sports— it’s what creates the dramatic ends to a game, season or even championship.
In the game of baseball, rivalries stem back to the early-1900s. Most recently the Toronto Blue Jays eliminated two of their rival teams from the postseason in the Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers. The everlasting rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, most famously known for the mid-2000s, continues to highlight baseball rivalries. Then there’s the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants — a rivalry that was only two Giant victories away from being brewed up again in this year’s MLB postseason.
The equivalent of those rivalries in OUA Baseball involves the Brock Badgers, a team that before this year had finished first 10 times in 15 seasons. Their rivals, the Western Mustangs, have been right there with the Badgers for most of those seasons.
To put it into perspective, dating back to the 2001 season, the Badgers or Mustangs have won the OUA Championship nine of the 15 years — with the Mustangs holding the edge with five of those nine titles.
Between the two, going back to the 2007 season the Badgers have won 12 games against the Mustangs in the regular season compared to the Mustangs nine victories over the Badgers. However, in those games the Mustangs have outscored the Badgers 84-77.
This past weekend at the OUA Championships, the rivalry between the two continued as both teams found themselves in the championship round for the 10th time in 16 seasons — it’s the second consecutive year the two have met in the Championship.
The Badgers, after finishing the season 14-4, saw early trouble during the weekend’s playoff tournament. Their opening round game against Guelph saw the Badgers pull off a comeback from behind victory.
Chase Porter pitched 4.1 innings for the Badgers, giving up five earned runs. Ryan Bench and Jake Near came out of the bullpen to shut the Gryphons down the remainder of the game.
Down 6-3 after five innings, the Badgers cut the lead to two in the sixth with Blake Stepien singling home Justin Gideon in the sixth. Then with two on in the eighth, Stepien went deep with a three-run home run to give the Badgers a 7-6 lead and ultimately the victory.
The Mustangs would cruise to an easy opening round 15-5 victory over Waterloo.
Then it would be the Badgers versus the Mustangs — one team would be able to put the other a loss away from elimination. Brock would get to the Mustangs starter and former Badger Ryan Beckett in the first to take a 2-0 lead.
The wheels fell off for the Badgers as starter Alex Nolan couldn’t record an out in the sixth, going five-plus innings with four earned runs (five total runs). Nick Subramaniam gave up a run in his one inning of work and Matthew Balkwill allowed six runs over two innings to give the Mustangs a 12-3 win.
Both teams would get a bye to the OUA semi-finals, where the Badgers took on Waterloo and Western faced Guelph.
The Mustangs would continue their domination as they moved onto the championship round with a convincing 15-0 win.
The Badgers would do the same behind a 4-4 game by Matthew Legg, who also had five runs batted in. Starter Rhys Tapper would go seven strong innings allowing one run, which gave the Badgers an 11-1 victory.
During last year’s OUA Championship, the Badgers needed to beat the Mustangs twice to be crowned victorious. That same story played out again this year, with Badgers being a loss away from elimination, they needed two wins over the Mustangs but the Mustangs, being undefeated over the course of the weekend needed just one win.
The Badgers went with Derek Zwolinski as their starter and the Mustangs had Dustin Gooden.
The Mustangs would score all their six runs in the game against Zwolinski in the third inning. The Badgers would get on the board in the sixth as six batters walked allowing Brock to score twice.
In the ninth down 6-2, the Badgers got back to back singles from Noah Koffman and Josh Wray to leadoff the inning. Tyler Nakamura would bring Koffman home with a sacrifice fly. Then with two outs and two on down 6-3, up came to bat 2014 and 2015 OUA Hitter of the Year Justin Gideon.
Gideon would walk, giving Dennon Koziol a bases loaded opportunity, but the designated hitter would strikeout looking.
It would be the Mustangs second consecutive OUA Championship and sixth in 12 years.
Of those six titles, the Mustangs have defeated the Badgers in the Championship round five times. Including when the Mustangs won three straight titles from 2005-2007 and now over the last two seasons.
For the Badgers, they had a strong season under the wing of first year manager Marc LePage. With a young team this year, the Badgers future does look bright going into the winter and then the 2017 season.
The Badgers and Mustangs rivalry however, is one that seems never ending. The two programs will continue to dominate the OUA for years to come, and we shouldn’t be surprised if the two meet again in the OUA