On the weekend of July 17–19 the U-12 Stittsville Axemen participated in the 33rd annual Willie Putnam memorial tournament in the towns of Three Mile Bay, Chaumont and Cape Vincent New York and came away victorious once again.
The Willie Putman tournament is in memorial of a 12-year-old who lost his life in a bike accident in 1983. Willie was an avid baseball and hockey player, something that definitely resonates with both the players and parents of the Axemen. This year’s version consisted of 28 teams in two age divisions spread over diamonds in three towns in the Watertown-Cape Vincent area of New York State.
The weekend got off to a positive start results wise in the first game against the South Ottawa Blues. This was a sluggish, sloppy game from the first pitch. If not for the stellar pitching of Ben “Philly” Phillips, striking out seven Blues in three innings pitched, the somewhat lethargic Axemen may have faced a far different result than the final of Stittsville 16, Blues 7. While most of the bats lay dormant, James “JJ” Jenkins ripped a bullet down the right field line for an inside the park homerun. Player of the game as selected by South Ottawa was a deserving Ben Phillips.
Game two saw the Axemen face a determined team from Philadelphia. The Axemen, realizing a more focused effort was needed came to the field with more determination and desperation. The game got off to a somewhat apprehensive start with neither team scoring in the first inning. Philadelphia’s pitching was a far higher calibre than the Axemen had faced in their first game and to their credit the Axemen adjusted and then feasted on their hurlers.
Every player reached base at some point during the six inning contest, highlighted by a bases clearing, three run triple by Matty “Baseball” Roy. Pitching was also effective and efficient. When the starter and long reliever ran out of gas it was time to turn to Owen “O-Dog” Riedel. With confidence and precision the Phillies were dispatched of in the last inning to preserve the win. Philadelphia selected a happy and worthy Matthew Roy as player of the game.
Sunday brought blue skies, high temperatures and a great diamond as the setting for the championship game. The opponent was APW, a team made up of Select players from 3 towns in the Syracuse area. From the first pitch it was apparent this was going to be a highly competitive game. Pitching on both sides was stellar. Ryan “Dex” Dexter fanned four batters through his 2, 1-3rd innings and left the game with zeros on the scoreboard for APW. After 2 innings the scoreless game needed a play and it got it off the bat of Peyton “Pedro” Hernandez. A hard hit triple over the centre fielder began the momentum of what would be a three run inning for the Axemen. Defence played a key role in this game for Stittsville. Two hard hit balls down the third base line, one in the 2nd, the other in the 5th, were professionally dealt with by Aiden “curly” Wilson. Both hits could have been game changers.
The fourth inning saw the Axemen jump out to a 7-2 lead. APW’s starting pitcher gave way to a rather large fireballer. This did not faze Ethan “Jellytime” Jelley who promptly led off with a solid hit (his second of the game). This was the catalyst to another rally, one in which the Axemen would score 4 to bring the total to 7.
Anton “mooshie” Moshchensky also collected his second solid hit of a well-pitched game and went on to score what would turn out to be the pivotal 7th run for Stittsville. APW were a determined bunch and chipped away at what was once a 7-2 lead. In the sixth and final inning with a one run lead it was time to run the ball over to Johnny “Bones” Bonnar. The first batter hit a bullet down the first bag line. Alex “Axe” Kelk heroically managed to get his glove on a piece of it and his body on the rest. A truly great baseball play in a clutch situation! With 2 out and a runner on first the game was over on a caught stealing play at 2nd until overturned by the home plate umpire.
The players, out on the field celebrating, had to re-group both mentally and physically to get the last out. Bones needed 3 pitches-all strikes-to get the job done. Strikeout, game over. Stittsville Axemen, 2015 Willie Putman Champions. A jubilant and sore Alex Kelk was named player of the game.