If a hockey game had broken out at Sumner Field during the provincial baseball game between Vincent Massey’s Vikings and the Boissevain-Wawanesa co-op team, it would have been a dandy.
At a time when more teenagers were choosing to major in one sport, both teams had an abundance of players choosing both hockey and baseball.
“I’ve always played baseball, since I was maybe about five years old,” said Carter Dittmer of Vincent Massey, who is a prospect for the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips and has spent last season with the AAA Brandon Wheat Kings Under-18s. “I love the game and being on the bench with the boys. It’s a good time there.
“Obviously I prioritize hockey as a sport over baseball, but I don’t want to be too focused on that. I want to have another muscle development even though I still skate every morning with the Academy (from Western Canada Hockey) and training for hockey specifics, it’s still good to go to the baseball field and to have fun. »
Dittmer and his Massey teammates opened the tournament with a 17-9 loss to Boissevain. The Vikings return to action today at 11:30 a.m. when they take on a co-op team from McCreary-Ste. Rose at Andrews Field.
Dittmer scored a pair of first runs and went 2-for-4 at home plate while finding a way to catch whatever came his way in center field. It was especially noticeable on a day when high winds were taking their toll on defenders trying to get their glove on the ball.
He describes himself as a competitive person who hates losing.
“I play center and you have to be explosive, you have to be quick on your toes and have good reaction time and I think that translates to hockey,” Dittmer said. “You always have to be on your toes, keep your head up, know what’s going on and be pretty quick. I also like to think of myself as pretty quick on the ice.
Dittmer’s baseball teammates Will Pearson, Dylan Schrader, Skylar Ramsay, Callum Halls and affiliate player Jackson Aldcroft also skated for the Wheat Kings U18 team which won the regular season pennant before falling to the Wild of Winnipeg in the Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League final.
Boissevain also had a very good hockey player on the roster, hometown boy Josh Fluker, who ranked seventh overall for the Swift Current Broncos in the 2021 WHL Draft.
Fluker went 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs for Boissevain while providing solid shortstop defense.
“It’s kind of competitive,” Fluker said of the two sports offering. “You can take the two sports and put them together. They’re all kind of the same thing.”
Wheat Kings defenseman Zach Turner and Fluker Cougars teammate Brett Laing were also on the court Thursday.
Perhaps the patron saint of many sports in western Manitoba is former Brandon Wheat Kings captain Marty Murray, who was also a top baseball player. Like Fluker, he was also a former member of the Southwest Cougars.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Fluker said of playing both. “I think being a multi-sport athlete is a good plan. It gets you in shape for anything that can happen. Marty is a big influence in Souris and at the rink where the Cougars play.”
Coincidentally, both head coaches were also top multi-sport athletes.
Corey Billaney, a longtime staple of the senior AA Boissevain Centennials baseball team, grew up playing hockey and baseball and spent three summers on the provincial ball team starting at age 15. years ago when he attended the Western Canada Summer Games.
He received an invitation to play at a junior college in Iowa just before leaving for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League camp in Neepawa, but ultimately decided he’d rather play both sports than major. in a. He played three seasons with the Titans in the 1990s, before joining the Brandon University Bobcats for three years.
“I enjoyed every sport in its season and embraced it,” Billaney said. “I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to play hockey over the summer and a lot of baseball didn’t start until April. When you can leave a piece of equipment in the bag for four to six months and don’t worrying about it and not having to dig for a weekend here and a weekend there, I think that really helps put your roots in the sport.”
Vincent Massey’s head coach, Garrett Popplestone, has always played baseball, but was a top basketball and especially volleyball player during the winter that capped his post-secondary career with three seasons at BU .
Although he has immense respect for 12-month-old single-sport athletes – “The dedication that takes and the commitment that they have is very valuable in itself” – he still played all the sports he could.
“I think there’s a lot of crossover in many sports and you can adapt and learn in different sports that perpetuate themselves, whether it’s adversity or skill transfer,” Popplestone said. “I think there’s so much value from what can be transferred from one sport to another.”
On Thursday afternoon, Massey led 8-0 after the start of the second, with Boissevain pushing four runs late in the set to make it 8-4, and five more in the third set to take a 9-8 lead.
The Vikings managed just one more run the rest of the game – in the fourth inning to briefly tie the game 9-9 – but Boissevain scored three runs late in the fourth inning, two in the fifth and three more in the sixth. frame to store the Pool 2 game.
Brett Lang took the victory in five innings relief from Tyler Robertson, while Brannigan Ferland took the loss in relief for the Vikings.
“Pardon the pun, but we’re behind the 8 ball,” Billaney said. “We lost eight runs and really had to rethink how we were going to play this game. They were really tearing up ball coverage. We changed pitchers and luckily we got a couple hits and responded and got some life. ”
Boissevain defeated McCreary-Ste. Went up 4-2 in a cold morning game, and Fluker said going 2-0 after day one was pretty nice.
“It was a great day,” Fluker said. “We struggled a bit in the first game and we came back and won that one, and here we were down 8-0 and came back up.”
Needless to say, the Vikings saw the afternoon a little differently.
“We can’t be too happy with this game,” Dittmer said. “We got off to a good start and were winning 8-0, then we just made a few defensive mistakes and they just kept piling up. We just have to limit that, we have a second chance tomorrow.
“I think we can take away that we had the only good run in the second where we hit balls left and right and managed the goals very well. We just have to play like that every set.”
In other games it was:
• Pool 1: Garden City 22, Helen Betty Osborne 5. Stonewall 13, Garden City 3
• Pool 3: Steinbach 7, Garden Valley 5. Steinbach 4, Carberry/Cartwright/Baldur/Glenboro (co-op) 2.
• Pool 4: Birtle/Shoal Lake/Strathclair (co-op) 15, William Morton 3. Portage 14, Birtle/Shoal Lake/Strathclair (co-op) 4.
Boissevain returns to action in the quarter-finals this afternoon after earning a spot by winning both games. McCreary-Ste. Both Rose and Vincent Massey need a win in their round robin match to qualify.
Popplestone remains optimistic that the Vikings will turn things around.
“There were a lot of good things that happened, but also some things that we need to work on and sort out,” Popplestone said. “I think they’ve hit three home runs inside the park, so relaying the ball and chopping it up and having a better secondary plan is something we’re going to talk about.
“We put eight early in the second and that was good, but then we had a cold streak and had a hard time rallying. Sometimes baseball doesn’t always go your way, so we’ll be back ( today) and pick up where we left off.”
The event wraps up Saturday afternoon at Andrews Field, with the final set for 1 p.m.