The Neepawa Farmers schedule may have ended earlier last month but two of its top pitchers had the opportunity to extend their season recently.
Farmers starting pitcher Josh Loewen and closer Greg Hockin – who also started one playoff game for Neepawa in the MSBL finals – were both selected by the Reston Rockets as supplementary players to their roster heading to the Baseball Canada 2012 Senior Men Championships held Aug. 23-27.
The Rockets won the MSBL's playoff title in 2011 to qualify for the championships as Team Manitoba.
At the National tournament, Reston finished the round robin with a 2-win, 1-loss record, good for a top-six finish and qualification into the medal round. In the quarterfinal matchup, Reston was eliminated by Ontario's Windsor-based club.
Neepawa's Greg Hockin pitched a gem for Reston against BC in the second game of the tournament, striking out the first three batters he faced and continuing on to pitch the complete game.
In seven innings, Hockin struck out six, allowed one earned run and only nine hits, and led the squad to a 7-2 win.
“We had lost the night before so I knew from then on the games were must wins. I knew if I could pick this team up with a good outing it may help push us forward,” Hockin said, adding he actually requested to start against the west-coasters.
“I love pitching against BC and had asked a couple weeks before the tourney to throw that game. I knew I was ready for it.”
Neepawa's other pickup Josh Loewen pitched two games later, in the quarterfinal against Team Ontario.
Loewen allowed four earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched as Reston went on to lose 8-3.
Hockin said Loewen pitched a strong game but an ejection to star shortstop Max Poulin – who was picked up from the Brandon Cloverleafs for the tournament – in the first inning for running Ontario's catcher while trying to score, slowed down the entire team.
“Josh threw very well and gave us a chance to win, but he didn't get the defensive effort I got,” Hockin explained. “Poulin made at least two plays for me at shortstop that I've never seen made before while I've been in a game.
“For Josh's game, Poulin was kicked out (of the game) before Josh even got on the field. That really deflated our team and put us in a jam for defense.”
The loss ended Reston's tournament, but the opportunity for National competition was still pretty special for Neepawa's pitchers.
“It's always flattering getting picked up,” Hockin pointed out. “When that happens, you know the other teams value your skills and respect your style of play. To actually come out and contribute for them was great.”
The pair also got to play against some of the best ball players in Canada and, considering Reston is a community of 600 and the team only picked up six extra players for its tournament roster – as compared to teams like BC and Ontario who can pick all-star teams from populations of 100,000 and higher – Manitoba more than held its own.
Looking to the future, the Neepawa pitchers hope to see their hometown team make the trek to the National tournament in two year's time.
“We are looking forward to next summer and hoping to add some players to win playoffs and a berth to (the 2014) nationals,” Hockin said. “Getting picked up is great but going there with your own team and friends would be something else.”