Tavi set to defend title

Reprinted with permission from the Woodstock Sentinel Review.

By Cory Smith
Sports reporter

TAVISTOCK — If the St. Marys/Tavistock Merchants have any hope of defending their ISC II world fastball championship, they’ll have to find the missing ingredients they used to win last year. The Merchants started 2007 ranked No. 1 among ISC II teams, but a slow start in the South Perth Men’s Fastball League and a disappointing finish at the Ontario eliminations last weekend dropped the club to a top-five world ranking. Hardly anything to be ashamed of, but the Merchants will have a bull’s-eye on them all week. “We expect to be able to compete. With a little luck anything can happen,” Merchants manager Steve Kaufman said. “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of teams gunning for us.”

First on that list will be the Kitchener Outlaws, who host the Merchants Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
“I don’t think expectations are going to be a problem,” Kaufman said. “We’ve had a lot of expectations for many years, going back to Fargo in 2004 when we got second. It was like a relief to win last year.”

Nearly everything went the Merchants’ way in Kitchener last August. Tavistock — before adding St. Marys to its name this season — went 7-1 over eight games and outscored its opposition 34-7. The pitching staff — which hurled five shutouts, including a Ryan Cummings no-hitter — is back this year. There are some holes, such as the departure of shortstop Mark McKay, who scored the winning run in the eighth inning of last year’s championship, but Kaufman is confident that players brought in from St. Marys will mix with the returnees to form another formidable mix.

“We need good pitching and good hitting and timely hitting, that’s what it takes,” he said. “We have the ability to score lots of runs, but when it comes to playoffs and good teams it’s pitching and defence that comes through.”

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