Raiders knock off top-seeded Braves

Staff

Make no mistake: the Couchiching Raiders are for real.
Sheldon Kelly Sr. threw a two-hit, complete-game shutout, and also chipped in offensively with a home run, as the third-ranked Raiders upset the top-seeded Fort Frances Braves 3-0 in their Rainy River District Fastball League East Division semi-final last night at VanJura.
Couchiching, which has won three-straight games, will be back at VanJura this Tuesday (Aug. 30) at 6:30 p.m. to face the second-seeded Sight & Sound Wolves in the first of possibly two games in the East Division final.
A Wolves’ win will put them into the league final while a Raiders’ victory will force a second-and-deciding game next Thursday (Sept. 1).
The Braves, who reached the league final last season, were unable to solve Kelly—and paid for it by being ousted from the double-elimination playoffs following a 2-1 loss to the Wolves last week.
The Braves still looked to be shaking off the effects of the previous weekend, when six players in last night’s lineup played 10 games over three days as part of the Northern Ontario Selects, who finished tied for fifth in the ‘A’ Division at the 2016 North American Fastpitch Association World Series in North Mankato, Mn.
Kelly’s performance, meanwhile, extended a brilliant playoff run for him.
He no-hit the fifth-seeded Manitou Thunderbirds two games ago, then gave up just one run on three hits in beating fourth-ranked Windey’s Warriors on Tuesday.
The right-hander was even better against the Braves, who were without RRDFL home run champ Travis Tom (10) for last night’s game.
Kelly didn’t allow a hit after Linden Indian’s second-inning single that put two on with none out.
He immediately escaped the jam by getting Brian Hook to pop out to short , then whiffing Marcus Hunter and Nick Ashworth.
Kelly’s team took a while to get going against Braves’ righty Jaden Gustafson, who gave up only four hits while fanning six-straight batters at one point.
But the Raiders stayed patient and capitalized on a big blast sandwiched between two mistakes that opened the
scoring in the fourth.
With one out, Mike Parisien couldn’t hold onto Faron Morrisseau’s pop to short on a tough play.
Chad Smith then hammered a drive into the gap in right-centre for an RBI triple.
That turned into two runs when Braves’ third baseman Brandon McGinnis lost second baseman Jesse Tom’s relay throw in the setting sun as Smith slid in hard.
The ball got by McGinnis and squeezed through the fence, allowing Smith to trot home.
Kelly later blasted a 2-1 offering from Gustafson over the left-field fence for a solo shot with two out in the sixth.
The Braves tried to rally in the bottom of the frame. With one out, Jesse Tom was hit by a pitch before Parisien walked to bring the tying run to the plate.
Kelly didn’t blink, though, getting both Gustafson and Indian to hit infield pop-ups to end the inning.
The third-ranked Stratton Eagles, meanwhile, will host the fourth-seeded Big Grassy Lightning in the West Division semi-final this Monday.
That winner then visits the undefeated Barwick Blue Knights, the defending league champs, in the West final on Tuesday.