For the UNB Cougars baseball team, the 2013 season was one for the history books. The team captured the Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association’s Atlantic Conference title, before falling in a heartbreaking fashion to Saint Mary’s at the national championships in Windsor, Ont.
Judging by their opening weekend performance, the Cougars are ready to repeat their run for a national title.
UNB’s baseball team opened their season by winning four straight games against Cape Breton University and Saint Francis Xavier University.
In the first game, UNB defeated CBU by a score of 4-3, thanks to stellar pitching from Kyle Donovan. Spencer Montgomery and Tyler Walchuck each had two hits for UNB. In the second game of the double header, Tyler King pitched a complete game shutout, defeating CBU 9-0.
The first game of Sunday’s double-header was a 14-2 bashing of StFX. Adam Kerr allowed only two earned runs and Spencer Montgomery led the offensive charge with four hits and five runs batted in. The second game was much closer, however, with UNB narrowly squeaking out a 3-2 win. Three pitchers contributed to UNB’s winning effort.
The team was led to victory under the direction of their new head coach David Dion, who is currently the director of Baseball New Brunswick and has had great success previously with the New Brunswick Selects and Canada Cup teams. Returning to the team in new assistant coaching capacities are Kevin McCarthy and Matt Clark, both former players with the Cougars.
The shuffle in coaching staff isn’t the only change the Cougars are experiencing this season, however. This year, the Cougars will be playing in the newly-formed Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association.
“In order to develop our previous league in line with the national sport organization of Baseball Canada, we had to either evolve the existing constitution to progress forward or create a new league with a new constitution that was geared towards promoting growth of the sport across the country,” said general manager Mark MacNevin. “The previously elected executive took the league backwards and a new executive was put in place with the main objective of expanding the league.”
MacNevin said the decision to join the league was simple, with the goal of returning to the format of a “truly national championship.”
“Over the years the championship series has digressed to an eastern championship of sorts, with many teams leaving the league over previous executive decisions,” he said. “We want the opportunity to play against the best teams in the country, instead of just those located nearby in Atlantic Canada.”
The new league has added two teams to the Atlantic Conference, following the folding of Crandall University’s perennially strong team. Both new additions, Acadia University and Holland College, look to be fielding competitive teams in their first season; Holland College has already been granted varsity status and Acadia had more than 70 students come out for tryouts.
Rounding out the Atlantic Division are Cape Breton University, St. Francis Xavier University, Dalhousie University and Saint Mary’s University.
Another difference baseball fans may notice when it comes to the new league is the change in format of the championship games. This year’s championship tournament will include teams from Ontario University Athletics, with the hopes of eventually bringing these teams back as full members under one unified league.