By Cole Parkinson
For Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It was a championship finish for the W.R. Myers Rebels high school baseball team.
A year after the team went 0-10 in its first season back after a prolonged hiatus, the Rebels turned in a dominant weekend at home during the Southern Alberta High School Baseball League Tier 3 Championship Tournament.
“From start to finish, we played an exceptionally solid three games,” said Myers head coach Garrett Simmons. “We had one bad inning in our opening game but other than that, we stayed composed and played our best baseball of the year when it mattered most.”
The Rebels finished with a 3-0 weekend and collected a huge 11-1 win Saturday in the championship game over Maple Creek, a team that gave Myers all they could handle in the regular season.
“We squeaked out a 7-6 win earlier in the year, so we knew we were in for a battle,” said Simmons, whose team fell behind 1-0 early in a game that was tight until the third and fourth innings. “We just couldn’t seem to break through until we had two big offensive innings.”
The game was 1-1 going into the bottom of the third inn, when an Ashton Lukacs single started a four-run rally. Jaxon Maksymytz singled in the first run of the inning, before Dane Den Hollander and Tage Jensen drew walks to bring in two more runs. A Hayden Span groundout brought in the fourth run of the inning for the Rebels.
A Lukacs started another four-running inning in the bottom of the fourth, as a Bryden O’Connor RBI single help ignite a rally that was aided by a big two-run double by Den Hollander.
“Those two innings were huge for us,” said Simmons. “We were patient at the plate, drew some key walks and came up with timely hits.”
The game came to an end in the bottom of the fifth, as O’Connor crossed the plate for Taber’s eleventh run, thanks to a Maksymztz ground out.
Span, Lukacs, and Maksymytz were all 2-4 in the game, while Den Hollander led the way with three RBI in the win. On the mound, Jensen was spectacular, as the right hander pitched a complete game, with five strikeouts, three walks, and only two hits allowed.
“Tage really came through when we needed him the most,” said Simmons. “He wanted the ball in the final and he certainly didn’t disappoint.”
And the Rebels certainly proved their point they deserved to be in the final early in the tournament after an 18-8 win in the opener over Eagle Butte on Thursday and a big 24-5 win over Kainai on Friday.
Despite a 10-run differential, Thursday’s opener nearly went sideways for the Rebels, after a 12-1 lead quickly evaporated, as Eagle Butte put up seven in the top of the fourth to climb to within 12-8.
“Eagle Butte found a few holes and we made a few crucial mistakes in that inning,” said Simmons. “Credit the kids for righting through that and putting the game away with a few big innings.”
Myers plated two runs in the bottom of the fifth and scored four more in the sixth to end the contest, thanks to a double from Span and a RBI ground out from Maksymytz that plated the winning run.
Span ended the game going 4-4 with four RBI and four runs, while Tanner Bullock was 3-4 with two RBI and four runs. Heath Hansen and Evan Koizumi were both 2-4 on the day, as Hansen drove in one and Koizumi added three RBI.
Bullock struck out 11 batters through five innings to pick up the win on the mound, while Jensen pitched a clean sixth inning.
Friday’s win over Kainai saw O’Connor go 4-4 at the plate with five RBI and three runs, while Span went 3-3 with two RBI, five runs, and a walk mixed in. Koizumi was 3-4 with three RBI and two runs, while Bullock also collected three hits, drove in a pair, and scored three times.
Lukacs nailed a two-run homer as part of a 2-4 day at the plate that featured three RBI and three runs scored. Rex Bell was 1-3 with a pair RBI and runs scored, while Maksymytz and John Van Uden had the other RBI for the Rebels.
“That game was a real team effort,” said Simmons. “We saw a lot of good performances at the plate and all four of our pitchers came in and did the job for us.”
Lukacs struck out two in his single inning of work, while Span threw one and a third innings and notched a trio of punchouts. Koizumi struck out five in one a two-thirds innings, while Den Hollander worked two-thirds of an inning and picked up one strikeout.
“In the end, our team really came together this weekend,” said Simmons. “I’m so proud of the kids who were on our team last year who really grew into leaders this season. We also had a group of newcomers who made gigantic contributions to our success. The future is certainly bright for Rebels baseball.”
Simmons also highlighted the work of coaches Jeff Den Hollander, Jamie O’Connor, and Rick Popadynetz.
“We had a great coaching staff this year who taught the kids some valuable lessons and really made this an enjoyable season all around.”
The coach also highlighted the work of Dale Tilleman and Popadynetz, who worked tirelessly to get the field ready for the tournament.