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Merchants defend Ontario title

By Lee Griffi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Tavistock U23 Merchants are again Ontario champs after an undefeated weekend.

They defended their 2023 crown on home ground with a 5-3 come-from-behind win over Harwood in the championship game Sunday afternoon. Reese Yantzi dominated on the mound with 11 strikeouts but the Merchants found themselves down 3-1 before tournament MVP Calvin Munro hit a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth to make it 3-2. In the sixth inning, a leadoff double by Connor Brooks was followed by a single from Thomas Baker. After a home run off the bat of Derek Erb, that was enough for Tavistock to claim the title.

Head coach Kevin Zehr said the rain was a factor, leading to back-to-back games on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, but he added the team pulled together like they always do.

“All 17 players contributed to the title. Without a deep bench, I don’t know if we would have had enough left at the end. Our pitchers, Tye Boyd, Nate Running, Andrew Van Boekel and Yantzi, had 36 strikeouts and the defence held the opposition to just seven runs while we scored 23. It was a completely balanced effort.”

The Merchants dropped Shallow Lake 7-4 on the strength of Connor Brooks’ two hits, including a home run and three RBIs. Boyd and Van Boekel combined for 11 strikeouts. Next up in the round-robin was Harwood and Yantzi threw a one-hitter with eight strikeouts as they picked up a 7-0 victory. Running earned the win in a 4-0 win against Wiarton while Boyd earned the save. The pair combined for 10 strikeouts.

Boyd said the team’s comradery is what leads to championships.

“We have a deep team with a good bench. Everyone is always positive and we are 17 guys deep. Everyone is there to pick you up,” he said.

Munro, an Embro native, added despite the win they will need to step it up for the upcoming nationals.

“It was great. We had tons of fans out to watch us. It was a good weekend and we pulled it out even though we probably could have played a little bit better so hopefully, come the Canadians, we will be at that next level.”

Tavistock will defend its Canadian title in Kitchener from July 30 to Aug. 4 in Kitchener.

New Zealand came to town

Tavistock had a day of rest before hosting the famous New Zealand Black Sox who are on an exhibition tour in Canada. Despite losing 5-0 to the visitors, Munro said it was a great game.

“They’re just better and have more experience,” he said. “We did lose, but it’s always fun to play in front of a lot of people with a great atmosphere.”

Boyd pitched an inning against New Zealand and said witnessing the Haka was something he’ll always remember and thanked fans for coming out.

“It was good to see that level of ball for all of us and I thought we played well. It was great to see the support from Tavistock for us,” Boyd said.

The Black Sox, ranked eighth in the world, also battled the Tavistock Hops men’s team at the tail end of the doubleheader and the visitors came away with a 3-0 win.

Team Canada is ranked number three in the world rankings behind Japan and number-one Australia.

The All Blacks also played a doubleheader in Hickson on Wednesday night.


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