Taking to the mound in the season-opening Sudbury 18U Voyageurs game in the Premier Baseball League of Ontario, Yanick Loiselle pitched a no-hitter — in a 16-5 loss, no less.
Yeah, there’s a little to untangle there.
With the Ottawa Nepean Canadians in town for a three-game set, Loiselle was masterful in helping to set the tone for the home side. Unfortunately, so too was his counterpart, Ryan Dexter.
Through seven complete innings, a full game when you are trying to squeeze four matchups into just over 24 hours, Sudbury and Ottawa were deadlocked in a scoreless tie.
Loiselle had allowed only five runners on base — three walks and two reaching on very clear-cut errors — striking out eight along the way. Dexter allowed three hits over five innings, with Russell Radko taking the ball from there.
Following an expanded tiebreaker option, the teams began the eighth inning with runners on first and second, with Loiselle now out of the game, keeping his pitch count in line in his first outing in almost a year.
As if the battle did not already enjoy a handful of great storylines, the Canadians scored five times in the top of the eighth — only to see the Voyageurs answer with five of their own in the bottom of the same inning.
With arms at a premium, things got completely silly in the ninth, which did nothing to detract from what was a very special afternoon for the 17-year-old Grade 12 student at St. Charles College.
“Honestly, I thought I was ready and was going to be fine, but when I got out there, I was definitely a little shaky in that first inning,” said Loiselle, who gave up a pair of walks, but was bailed out by a wonderful throw to the plate from Gavin Roy, cutting down what could easily have been the only run of the game.
“Thank God for the good defence behind me; that was huge for my confidence. I was definitely nervous, but gradually got more comfortable.”
More comfortable, and seemingly stronger, as the game wore on.
A lovely 4-6-3 double play erased an Ottawa base-runner in the top of the fourth. From that point on, Loiselle went nine for nine, striking out six.
“Because it was the first game for both teams, I was throwing my fastball a lot. It was working and I was able to locate it. I was getting a lot of swings and misses.”
Truth be told, Loiselle deserved a better fate.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Voyageurs loaded the bases with nobody out — only to see Dexter at his best, fanning three consecutive hitters. So Loiselle had to settle for seven innings of no-hit ball. He may not fully understand, just yet, the etiquette of such moments, but the excitement was still apparent, even as we chatted on Sunday.
“I jokingly told my coach before the game that I was going to throw a no-hitter,” said Loiselle. “I didn’t actually think it was going to happen.”
With the gem still intact in the fifth, the young flamethrower reminded coach Greg Johnson that his no-no had not yet been broken — something of a faux pas for the superstitious folk in the game.
“I didn’t know that it was a jinx to say anything,” Loiselle said with a laugh.
Despite dropping the first and second games, including a 7-2 loss Saturday night, the 18U Voyageurs rebounded on Sunday, recording a 9-4 win over nine innings as the teams agreed to limit game play to just three meetings this weekend.
Scott Rienguette picked up the win for Sudbury, allowing two runs and two hits over seven innings while striking out 12. Josh MacNeil came on in relief to mop things up while Alex McNiven (2/4, three runs, two RBIs) and Cole Goudreau (1/3, double and three RBIs) paced the team offensively.
The Voyageurs spotted the visitors an early 2-0 lead, but rebounded with three in the bottom of the first, three more in the third and cruised to their first win of the year.
“I think we can compete this year, for sure,” said Loiselle. “We did a pretty good job this weekend. We were in Game 1, even if the score doesn’t really show it. And I think our Game 1 loss affected Game 2, but that’s a really good team that we played against.”
While it has yet to be officially noted on the league website, it appears that the 18U Voyageurs are back at home next weekend as well, hosting the Ontario Yankees in what is scheduled to be a four-game series.
Meanwhile, both of the younger Voyageurs teams opened their summer schedule on the road.
The 14U Sudbury lads were in London, playing to a 10-10 tie and dropping a heart-breaking 4-3 decision to the host Badgers, as well as being swept by a very strong Ottawa Nepean Canadians crew (8-2, 11-1).
Working his way back from an injury last summer that cost him almost a full year of playing and training, Braiden Paul saw his resiliency rewarded, stemming the tide while coming out of the Sudbury bullpen.
North Bay native Ryan Spencer combined solid pitching with flawless play at third base, starting a pretty 5-4-3 around-the-corner twin kill, while Gabriel Larocque paced the Voyageurs offence, going 4/10 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs. Unable to play due to injury, Owen Perron was worth his weight in gold, catching bullpen warmups, charting from the bench and helping out wherever he could in securing one of the weekend Sudbury Superman Shirts.
And though coach Shawn Paquette and the 16U squad came away winless in Ottawa (14-3, 10-4, 13-3, 8-4), there were plenty of positives to build upon.
“Our pitchers did a great job of pounding the zone,” he explained. “They were hitting the ball, but they didn’t get that many hard hit balls.”
Rather, a lack of communication and some initial nerves caused some defensive issues that surely can be worked on over the course of the next few months. Game 1 starter Alex Frawley battled from start to finish, unveiling an array of pitches that is somewhat outside of the norm at this age.
“This kid can spin the ball,” suggested Paquette. “He has two great curveballs. When he locates those, the hitters are having a hard time, and it makes his fastball look even better.”
At the plate, the head coach noted the efforts of Ethan Morris and Cole McPhee, along with some general improvement, right across the board.
“Everybody seemed to be finding their timing a little bit better in our Game 2s,” said Paquette. “We had a lot of well hit balls and a lot of quality at-bats.”
The 16U Voyageurs are back on the road again this weekend, battling the Tecumseh Thunder outside of Windsor, while the 14U lads join the elder clan at home, with both Ottawa and London making the journey north. Action begins Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Terry Fox Sports Complex, with the U18 Voyageurs taking on the Ontario Yankees.