Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Legionaires, Penner hold off Giants

St. B starter superb, pushes MJBL final to Game 4

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St. Boniface pitcher Hayden Penner tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout Wednesday to send the Manitoba Junior Baseball League final to Game 4.

SARAH TAYLOR / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

St. Boniface pitcher Hayden Penner tossed a complete-game, three-hit shutout Wednesday to send the Manitoba Junior Baseball League final to Game 4. Photo Store

If the St. Boniface Legionaires were going to get swept in the final of the Manitoba Junior Baseball League by the Elmwood Giants on Wednesday night, they were going to leave it all out on the field -- risk be damned.

In Game 3 of a best-of-five championship set, the Legionaires -- down 2-0 in the series -- played aggressive, some might say overly aggressive, but it paid off as they went home with a 3-0 victory at Whitter Park.

It started on the mound with 19-year-old Hayden Penner, who hurled a complete game, seven-inning shutout against the red-hot Giants, who boast some of the best hitting in the playoffs thus far.

Penner said he wanted to throw strikes and get up on the count as quick as possible. He held the Giants to only three hits, while striking out seven.

"We always had a positive attitude," Penner said, noting he would like to see more time on the mound if his coaches let him. "We weren't going down 3-0, we weren't getting swept. We knew we were going to pull out a win today."

On the offensive side of things, the Legionaires managed four hits but it was their base-running that caught the Giants off guard.

In the third inning, with runners on first and second, a short grounder was sent to the Giants pitcher, who got the out at first but an aggressive turn at third base from Wyatt Kemball caught the Giants sleeping as he slid home to put his team up 1-0.

In the sixth, with the score now 2-0, the Legionaires managed to pull off a similar play when Paul Esteves led off with a single and later stole second base. After another easily handled grounder to the shortstop was thrown to first for the out, Esteves turned on the wheels as he rounded third base and was called safe at home plate to give his team a 3-0 cushion.

Legionaires manager Kevin Dunn said his team was tight in Games 1 and 2, losing 5-4 on Monday and 8-0 on Tuesday, and came into Wednesday's game trying to keep things loose and relaxed.

"It wasn't necessarily something we saw coming into the game," Dunn said of his players' willingness to make the risky sprint to home. "But it's something that we paid attention to all year and it's been apart of our game. We play what we call 'small ball,' we want to be aggressive especially when we have a lead.

"We want to keep the other team on their toes, put pressure on them and it worked a couple times tonight."

For Elmwood, which finished fourth behind the Legionaires in the regular- season standings with a record of 10-14, the playoff run has been outstanding but they couldn't find the offence to close out the series Wednesday.

Penner held Giants hitters Matt Smith and Jeff Hotson to one single each. Both players are batting over .400 in the post-season. The Giants' best opportunity came in the first-inning when catcher Drew Allan smacked a ground-rule double to left-field, but nothing came of the opportunity.

Now with the series 2-1, St. Boniface will try to stay alive again at Elmwood's Koskie Field during tonight's Game 4. Game time is 7 p.m.

kyle.edwards@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2014 D6

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