An 8–3 victory on October 15 saw the University of Toronto Varsity Blues baseball team win their first OUA title in five years. A match where the Blues never relinquished their lead, the gold medal game was a reflection of the team’s strong season and even stronger lineup and roster, rallied together by first-year head coach Mike Didier.
Peter Nash, a senior in the Masters of Exercise Science program, was unanimously selected as the starting pitcher for the game and pitched six innings with dominance, recording six strikeouts while surrendering only two runs. A current coach in the Leaside Baseball Organization, Nash grew up admiring Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander while playing baseball in Ajax. Reflecting on his team’s 9-7 season, finishing tied for third in the OUA standings, Nash said, “It was obvious that [the Blues] were a top contender. Each game we lost, we knew we either beat ourselves or were right there. I had confidence at each position around the diamond, which I would argue is more than any other team could claim.”
Once October 13 rolled around and the playoffs for the OUA Championship officially started, Nash’s confidence was put to the test. Shutting out the Guelph Gryphons in the first round and defeating the Waterloo Warriors 7–3 in the quarter finals, the Blues moved on to face the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks in the gold medal game.
“I was both excited and nervous for the top of the Laurier order. They run three good lefties to start and follow it with the hitter of the year in the 4-spot,” said Nash, describing the strategy he and catcher Tanner Young-Schultz discussed going into the match.
“You could tell that, over the course of the game, they started to recognize my change-up and lay off when it ran off the plate,” continued Nash. “Nonetheless, the change-up was good enough to get sufficient outs. The bottom half of their order saw a bigger mix of curves and fastballs with a greater amount of righties.”
A critical defensive play came in the bottom of the fourth, when a Warriors runner was caught stealing by Young-Schultz.
“I was confused why they decided to run, as Tanner’s pop time is just fine, and I didn’t have a leg kick going; they really killed their own rally being over aggressive,” commented Nash on the opposition’s questionable decision. He added that despite the encouraging play, there was no room for letting guards down, as “momentum is easier to believe as a fan.”
The offense supported Nash’s terrific start; outfielder Michael Deluca scored three runners by collecting hits in both the first and second innings. Second baseman Marco Bandiera, outfielder Bradley Bedford, and infielder Roy Suzuki also collected runs batted in (RBIs) throughout the game. This offensive outburst allowed pitcher Graham Tebbit a comfortable cushion to close things down, and in his three-inning appearance, he only allowed one run.
Nash had difficulty choosing his favourite moment of the game since there were so many RBIs to “get you excited,” but he enjoyed striking out Davenport with a 3–2 change up in the first inning. Davenport was the hitter of the year.
“I would put that second only to seeing my rookie, Mikey, hit a long fly out to the oppo gap that really showed his development over the course of the season offensively,” said Nash. “He went from the bottom of the order to hitting line drives and loud outs consistently, which poses good signs for a first year outfielder. Seeing guys improve is what makes me tick.”
As for the future, Nash will continue coaching elite youth baseball and playing for the Pickering Red Sox senior team.
“[The Blues] have talent on the bench and on [the] pitching staff, so I have faith that U of T will be strong next year,” he said.