Humber Hawks men’s baseball team had another successful regular season and are ready to start the push to become OCAA champions.
The tournament at Stewart Burnett Park began on the right foot in Aurora yesterday with Humber beating Seneca Sting 10-7 in their opening game of the OCAA finals.
Justin Groves and Xavier Whittle each hit a home run. The pitchers Ronan Hayes, Maxim Skoropadsky, and the winner Eric Alcaraz combined for eight hits, seven runs with three earned, eight strikeouts and six base on balls.
But on Friday the Durham Lords beat the Hawks 11-7. Humber recorded nine hits and two errors, while Durham had 15 hits and four errors. The tournament continues until Sunday when the medal rounds are played.
Despite finishing with a record of 13-5 securing them third place in the OCAA standings, Alcaraz, a third-year player, said this season placed more obstacles in front of the team than anticipated.
“This season we faced a crazy amount of adversity,” Alcaraz said.
“We didn’t face much adversity both years before until the playoffs but a lot came at us early this year.”
The team was forced to make some changes to start the season as multiple key players were halted by injuries.
Alcaraz was a member of the 2022 team that was almost unstoppable winning 17 of 18 games in the regular season but came home from the playoffs with only a silver medal.
When comparing this season to last year, it’s easy to see the team had a drop off but head coach Troy Black says the slight record decline is not a result of lack of quality in his squad.
“There was no easy wins this year,” Black said. “It’s baseball, you’re going to win games you shouldn’t, you’re going to lose games you should’ve won, but top to bottom, the quality of the league is the biggest change.”
Black is in his third season as coach of the team taking them to consecutive finals appearances in 2021 and 2022. In his time as head coach he has a record of 33-8 but is yet to touch gold coming just short in both years prior at the hands of St. Clair Saints, a team they know very well.
In the first nine seasons of OCAA men’s baseball, only the Humber Hawks and St. Clair Saints have won the championship, with the latter winning the title seven times.
With the playoffs starting it’s time for the team to buckle down and get their heads in the game. Black said he is hungry to take home gold this season but needs to keep level-headed.
“Take things play by play and game by game, don’t let the moment get bigger than us,” Black said.
“I still have full faith in our ability and I think we have a very strong staff who can get us through a lot of games, which this time of year is a big deal.”
The team looks to make it three straight OCAA finals appearances and Alcaraz has a message to all upcoming opposition teams: “Don’t sleep on Humber.”