After a campaign that featured a five-game winning streak to clinch a postseason berth, the Virden Oilers’ season has come to an end.
The local senior team fell 11-7 on Tuesday in Boissevain in a South West Baseball League play-in game. Virden co-manager Brett Braybrook said his team made too many uncharacteristic errors as the fifth-seeded Oilers lost to the fourth-seeded Centennials. In the other play-in contest, No.6 Reston upset No. 3 Hamiota, 8-7. Pipestone product John Patmore earned the save for the Rockets.
Boissevain and Reston advance to this weekend’s double-elimination tournament in Oak River. The host Oak River Dodgers are the event’s top seed with a perfect 11-0 regular season. No. 2 Rivers posted an 8-3 record.
A playoff appearance for the Oilers was not a sure thing halfway through the SWBL season. After winning its season opener, the team dropped three straight games.
“The thing I was most pleased about this season is the way the team turned around the season after losing three in a row and looking like we were out of the playoffs and went on to win five in a row and into fifth place,” co-manager Des Koop said. “It’s great coaching a team that doesn’t quit on themselves.”
Virden finished the regular season with a 6-5 record. In his first full senior season, Braeden Lewis posted a team-best .448 batting average. Playing for his hometown team after suiting up for a few seasons for Souris, Toby Troughton led the Oilers with 12 runs batted in. Jeff Peel had a Virden-best five doubles. On the mound, he won a team-best three games for Virden. Those players are part of a strong core group for the Oilers.
“Just sitting around (Tuesday) night, the vibe was good,” Braybrook said. “We know we have the team that can compete for a championship and expect nothing less coming into next season.”
After a 0-11 regular season, the Expos did not qualify for one of the SWBL’s play-in games. While wins did not come for the team this season, fun did. Arguably the squad’s strength is its camaraderie – born of countless days the players have spent together on the diamond or the ice.
In 14 plate appearances, Tristen Shiner led the Expos with a .500 batting average. Bryce Kyle batted .458 in 24 plate appearances. Steve Bonchuk drove in a team-best eight runs. Coach/player Tyler Wood threw a team-high 20.99 innings. Damon Bajus led the Expos pitchers with 15 strikeouts.