One of the more uplifting stories to emerge from the John Abbott College fall sports season was the success of its varsity baseball team, comprised mostly of locally produced talent.
The Islanders, whose roster included no less than 10 players who learned their ball playing for either the Lac St. Louis Cardinals or Lakeshore-Trois Lacs Yankees organizations, finished second in the Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association’s (CIBA) Northern Conference — arguably the most competitive conference in the association — with a 10-6 mark. They then won the first game of their best-of-three semifinal playoff series against the McGill Redbirds before dropping the next two and suffering elimination. The ouster was a bitter pill to swallow for the Islanders, who were forced to watch the Redbirds, a team they dominated during the regular season, move on to beat the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the conference final and eventually capture a national championship.
“We should have won that series against the Redbirds,” said Islanders pitcher Matthew Langton, a Pointe Claire resident who had a tremendous campaign, posting a 5-1 record allowing only two earned runs in 33 2/3 innings for a sizzling 0.42 earned-run-average (ERA) while notching 46 strikeouts. As a result, he was named the association’s Most Valuable Pitcher. “We should have actually gone to nationals, that’s how good I believe we were. Unfortunately things didn’t go our way. That’s baseball I guess. We just ran into a team that got hot in the last two games of a series.”
Despite losing to the Redbirds, Langton and his teammates can look back at a season that not only put Islanders baseball on the map, but one that also earned the program respect from opposing teams.
“I can remember a few years ago, we played a series against Laval in Quebec City,” said Islanders head coach Marc-Andre Coté, a former head coach with the peewee AA Cards who also led the junior AA Pierrefonds Dodgers to a playoff championship in 2000. “They smoked us pretty bad in both games, and a few days later, somebody called me to say a reporter for their campus paper had cut us up pretty badly in an article, saying there was no way a CEGEP team should be on the field playing against university-level teams. Well, who is having the last laugh now? They’re (Laval) out of the league and we just
finished second in our conference and almost beat the team that went on to win a national championship.”
Pointe Claire resident Ernie D’Alessandro coached that team. He said although he was happy his Redbirds beat the Islanders, Coté and assistant Dale Bradley deserve recognition for a lot of hard work put in.
“Those guys have been with that program almost since day one,” said D’Alessandro, a Pointe Claire resident. “They’ve persisted, and as a result, have put together a solid team that has a lot of talent.”