Fort teams have varying success at World Series
They had a howling good time, no matter what the scoreboard said.
The Fort Frances Young Wolves and their spinoff collective, the Sight & Sound U-23 Wolves, took part in the ‘A’ and Men’s Under-23 divisions, respectively, of the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) World Series in the Quad Cities region of Iowa and Illinois.
“I think they played good, but nerves were a little bit of a factor,” said Young Wolves/Sight & Sound coach Rob McGinnis.
“We did good, considering the amount of pitchers we had down there,” he added.
“We pretty much rode Murray Armstrong the whole way. The other teams had a lot more pitching depth.”
After starting with a tough 5-4 loss to Lifetime Seamless Gutters from Wisconsin on Thursday, the Young Wolves responded with a 2-0 shutout of Northern Michigan FP on Friday.
No statistics were available for that game.
That put the Young Wolves up later that day against the Marquette (Mich.) Fence, who couldn’t close the gate defensively as Fort Frances earned a 7-2 victory.
Kurtis Wepruk was 1-for-3 with two RBI to lead Fort Frances, while Armstrong was terrific in his complete-game effort, allowing only three hits while walking two and striking out four.
Saturday produced a heart-pounding finish for the Young Wolves against Walcott Lamp-Lighter Inn (Iowa).
Fort Frances rallied from 5-2 and 6-4 deficits, scoring twice in the sixth to tie the contest.
A scoreless seventh led to an extra inning, with the cornfield crew plating on in the top of the eighth.
But the Young Wolves bared their teeth in the bottom of the frame and brought in two runs to collect an 8-7 victory.
Armstrong gave up 14 hits in his eight innings, but showed remarkable command of the strike zone with no walks and a whopping 14 strikeouts.
Jaden Gustafson had a team-leading three RBI, while Pearse Jackson was 2-for-2 and Ryder Woolsey was 2-for-3 with two RBI against losing pitcher Jerry Ralfs (11 hits, three walks, five strikeouts).
But Priority Mortgage (Mich.) foreclosed on the Young Wolves’ plans to stay in the tournament with a 10-0, five-inning rout later on Saturday.
“We had a few errors and we left a lot of runners on base,” said McGinnis.
“We couldn’t string together any hits.”
The Michigan mashers touched up Gustafson for seven runs in the second inning and racked up 10 hits in nine innings against the young hurler.
Meanwhile, Priority Mortgage starter Darrin Van Ark allowed only a hit from Gustafson in his four otherwise spotless innings of work.
A portion of the older Wolves team had twice the responsibilities down south this weekend, as those that were eligible took part in the Under-23 Series, as well.
The team, featuring mostly younger players compared to their opponents who were sporting rosters rife with 21- and 22-year-olds, went 0-3 in Pool A and then lost 7-4 in the seventh-place game against Mid American Advertising (Illinois).
“There were some close parts of games, but our pitchers would pitch well for a while and then get tired,” pointed out McGinnis.
“By the end of the tournament, we also had three or four starters injured on the bench with ice on their arms.”
Playing in Pool A of the event, Sight & Sound took a beastly pounding from the Waseda University (Maroon) team hailing from Japan to the tune of 18-0 in four innings.
“The Japanese were amazing,” lauded McGinnis, whose team only scratched out two hits against starter Toshihiro Matsuki (three innings) and reliever Naochida Yoskika (one).
Fort starter Eric Summerwelt never recorded an out while getting busted up for nine hits and 10 runs before finally receiving the mercy pull.
Gustafson didn’t fare much better, getting lit up for eight runs on seven hits in three and a third innings.
Kyohei Yoshida was especially rough on the Fort pitchers, racking up seven RBI as part of a 3-for-4 day as Waseda broke open a scoreless game with five in the third and then a staggering 13 in the fourth.
Bowen FP (Illinois) did all their damage in two innings on the way to blanking the Wolves 8-0 later on Friday.
Consecutive four-run innings in the fourth and fifth was all the offence Bowen FP would need against Summerwelt, who took the loss while giving up 13 hits, walking one and striking out five.
Mike Cantrel surrendered only two hits in five innings for Illinois, walking two and striking out seven.
Brody Gronewald paced Bowen FP with a 2-for-4 showing with three RBI.
It looked like the Wolves’ ship had finally come on Saturday with a four-run first inning against the California Young Bucks and starter Ryan Stanfiedwcz.
But reliever John Gwizdala threw a three-hit shutout over the final six innings and the Young Bucks steadied themselves to reply with seven unanswered runs to take a 7-4 decision.
Five California hitters had two hits apiece against Summerwelt, who gave up 12 overall while walking one and striking out five.
Summerwelt, Woolsey and Kyle Copenace each had two hits of their own for Sight & Sound.
The loss put the Wolves into the seventh-place game on Saturday, which they lost 8-1 to Mid American Advertising (BLANK) in five innings.
Mid American put a close 3-1 game out of reach with five runs in the fifth against Gustafson, who was tagged with the loss after giving up eight hits and walking five.
Collin Hopkins tossed a three-hitter for Mid American, issuing three free passes and fanning two.
Garrick Hale and Mark Gwizdala each had two RBI for Mid American.
But a lack of triumphs didn’t dull the Wolves’ enthusiasm.
“Everyone said they had a great time and it was a great experience and they can’t wait to go back next year,” said McGinnis.