The Virden Oilers certainly know their first round South West Baseball League playoff opponent well.
Player/manager Des Koop said this is the third time in four years that the Oilers have met the Hamiota Red Sox in the postseason. The Red Sox are the North Division’s top seed after compiling a 13-2 regular season record. Virden went 7-8 and edged Reston by half a game for the division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
“Our keys to success this round will be our pitching and bats,” Koop said.
The two teams will tangle in a best-of-three series. The first game was Wednesday in Hamiota. Virden hosts the Red Sox on Friday. If needed, game three will be Tuesday in Hamiota.
Rivers (10-4-1) will meet Oak River (9-6) in the other North Division semi-final. In the South, Boissevain (13-1) with ex-Oiler Zane Sawyer takes on the Souris Cardinals (4-10), who feature such area products as Kris Kinnaird, Tyler Campbell, Even Brereton, and Keifer Johnston. Deloraine (6-8) and Hartney (5-9) also made the playoffs.
In the last week of the regular season, the Oilers beat the Hartney Hoppers, 10-7, on July 3 and fell 4-3 to the Oak River Dodgers on July 6. Virden pitcher Jeff Peel earned the win against Hartney. He allowed seven runs on nine hits. Brayden Cullum drove in three runs and Riley Hole had two runs batted in. Curtis Plett looked like both Bonnie and Clyde as he stole four bases.
In the regular season, newcomer Jordan Cullum paced Virden with a .394 batting average with a minimum of 30 at bats. Connor Langlois (15 at bats) and the silky-voiced play-by-play man for the Brandon Wheat Kings, Branden Crowe (five at-bats), both hit .400. Cullum also had team highs of 14 runs batted in and 11 stolen bases. Catcher Brady Potter was second on the club with nine RBIs. Peel led the Oilers with five wins on the mound and a 4.38 earned run average.
The Expos concluded the regular season with a 3-12 record. The squad missed out on the postseason.
“It was nice to go out and play with a good group of guys every game,” said Expos player Josh Martin. “Obviously, things didn’t go the way we wanted this season but the group of guys we had made it enjoyable.”
In their final game of the season, Elkhorn led 8-3 at home in the bottom of the fourth inning on July 4. The team would tack on runs in the fifth and sixth. The Hamiota Red Sox scored once in the fifth, five times in the sixth, and twice in the seventh to come from behind for an 11-10 victory.
Seven Expos drove in runs. Colby Walker and Jordan Mitchell were 2-for-3 at the plate.
For the season, player/organizer Mike Stevenson led Elkhorn with a .400 batting average. Walker was second with a .364 average. Steve Bonchuk hit .355 and drove in a team-high 13 runs. Bradley Bowles led the Expos pitching staff with two wins and 26 strikeouts.