Barwick tops Copenace tourney

Bryce Forbes

The Barwick Blue Knights needed some clutch hitting to capture the top prize at the second-annual Rick Copenace Memorial men’s fastball tournament over the weekend.
In the bottom of the seventh of the final against a combined team from Rainy River and Stratton, it was all tied up.
But Barwick’s lead-off hitter came through with a clutch triple, then cross the plate two batters later when a single shot through the infield.
It gave the Blue Knights their first title at the tourney after placing third in the inaugural event last year.
“The boys played with a lot of sportsmanship and class,” said longtime Barwick manager George Oltsher.
“We had some very close games and there were some very good teams,” he noted.
In the ‘B’ final, the host Sabaskong Cubs pulled out a hard-fought 6-2 win over the Big Grassy Young Guns—a combined team consisting of players from Big Grassy and Rainy River.
Tournament awards went to Trevor Oltsher of Barwick (MVP and home run king), Sheldon Kelly of Sabaskong (all-star pitcher), and Cecil Copenace (all-star fielder).
The annual tournament, held at the Ojibways of Onigaming First Nation diamond and Bass Lake Park field in Nestor Falls, is to honour Rick Copenace, a former star pitcher of the Sabaskong Cubs who passed away two years ago after a game due to a coronary arteritis (an inflammation of the arteries) at the age of 26.
“The organizers were great. The tournament was well-run and it was a good tribute to Ricky,” said Oltsher, who added he knew the Copenace family fairly well.
“He loved the game as well as his dad did, and was a good sportsmanship,” he recalled.
“It was a tragic shock,” Sight & Sound Wolves’ manager Derek McKinnon said of Copenace’s sudden death.
“They now honour him perfectly. It is something to be proud of,” he remarked.
The Wolves were the team to beat after the first round, blanking three-straight opponents to open the tourney, outscoring them 21-0.
Then after beating Emo in the quarter-finals, only the combined team of Rainy River and Stratton stood between them and the championship game.
With the Wolves leading by two with two outs in the final inning, the combo squad loaded the bases and then launched a shot into outfield.
The fielder fumbled the ball, allowing three runs to cross the plate for the stunning 5-4 victory.
“It kind of sucked what happened,” said McKinnon. “It was a big hit that if [we caught it], it would have put us into the ‘A’ finals.
“It stings, but we have won games that way, too,” he reasoned.
“It’s got to happen to somebody, so we aren’t too down about it.”
The next tournament for Rainy River District Fastball League teams is an eight-team showdown on Canada Day in Barwick.