Stratford minor baseball products Jake Near and Kevin Gardner were part of the Sarnia Braves’ senior men’s team that captured its third provincial triple-A title in franchise history this past weekend in Windsor.
Sarnia will play in the national championships Aug. 22-25 in Miramichi, N.B.
“We got this group of guys going 10 years ago and we just kept adding and adding and getting better and better,” head coach James Grant told the Sarnia Observer. “We added about six young guys that just came up this year, and they just helped the team jell quite a bit.
“It’s probably been the funnest year we’ve ever had, too. I’ve been coaching for 10 (and) it’s been the best group.”
The Braves played seven games in four days to win the title. They won their first five, including a 7-4 victory over the Thornhill Reds on Sunday, to earn a berth in the final.
Gardner pitched into the fifth inning in that game, striking out four and scattering four hits while keeping the Reds off balance.
Near followed Gardner with his own strong start in the semifinal, yielding three hits over six innings in a 6-1 win over Brampton.
Sarnia beat Thornhill 1-0 in the championship. The Reds would have had to beat Sarnia twice in the double-knockout tournament.
The Braves have a GoFundMe page and are looking to raise $5,000 for the trip. To donate, visit gofundme.com and search Sarnia Braves.