18U Titans Cruise into CPBL Playoffs with Near Sweep of the Ontario Nationals

by Jim Stewart

The 18U Titans are peaking at the right time of the season and it’s been a team-wide effort. On the final weekend of the 18U regular season schedule, the Titans rolled up a 3-0-1 record versus the Ontario Nationals. The 18Us have been red hot down the stretch:  7-1-1 in their last nine regular season games and 11-4-1 in their last 16.  According to Head Coach Denis Bailey, “Everyone has done the job they have been asked to do. Our hitters have come up with timely hits when needed. Pitchers have truly filled up the zone and created weak contact. Defensively, we have made huge strides and continue to develop the skill set needed to win at this level. 7 hitters are hitting .275 and above. As a team, we have truly embraced the ‘Pass the baton’ motto.”

Many offensive metrics indicate that the 18U Titans are firing on all cylinders heading into the CPBL playoffs on Thursday. Coach Bailey delineated many of these key indicators of success: “Five players have hit home runs for us:  Slocum leads the team with 3; Guy and Reed have 2 each; and Bernardo and Gibson have 1 each.” 

This range of power hitters was very much on display in their final regular season weekend. The Titans’ senior squad belted 6 home runs versus the Ontario Nationals, including a Grand Slam by Caden Reed.  The Brooklin resident is committed to the UBC Thunderbirds of the NAIA for the 2022-23 US College season.  Wyatt Slocum, a dual player committed to the Garrett College Lakers of Maryland, led the Titans’ onslaught with two home runs.  Giancarlo Bernardo and Colby Guy—who will be teammates at Division 1 Rend Lake College in Ina, Illinois in September—each hit a home run versus the Nationals.   Shortstop Kirk Gibson—who’s committed to the University of Rio Grande Red Storm in Ohio—also went deep for the Titans and scored 8 runs in the 4-game weekend series.  

In addition to the range of power bats, Bailey also praised his team’s speed and base-stealing achievements:  “On the bases, we are 98/106 this season in swiping bags.  14 different guys have stolen bases.  Our leading base stealers are Tarek Emara with 21 and Caden Reed with 20. The players have bought into the culture we have created and kudos to them for running with it and embracing it.” In addition to buying into the team culture developed by the 18U Coaching Staff, Coach Bailey believes that there was a turning point in the 2022 season when it began to come together for the Titans’ veteran players:   “I strongly believe the turning point for us came when everyone finally got into the lineup together and Gibson and Lehr among others overcame their injuries to make big contributions. Walking off the Astros to start the Showcase Weekend showed us that we can battle adversity and come through when needed. It also taught us how to win. Going 3-0-1 vs the Nationals on the final weekend showed the players that the turning point was complete.  The 6 home runs and the 2 complete games by our starters were highlights but even more pleasing was the fact that we held our playoff fate in our own hands, we clutched up, and fought hard for every pitch.”

A quartet of 18U’s --Gibson, Nolan Thomson, Graham Sim, and Eric Lanoue—were highlighted by Coach Bailey for their roles in the near-sweep of the Nationals: 

  • Gibson played the role of lead-off hitter to near-perfection on the weekend.  He scored 8 runs for the 18U Titans and went 7 for 15.  Gibson also delivered power to the plate by hitting a home run and driving in 2 runs.  Head Coach Denis Bailey summed up his lead-off man’s 4-game performance:  “Kirk was the guy who set the tone for us all weekend. Leading off in all our games, Kirk hit everything hard. He was again our spark at the top of the lineup.”

  • Thomson batted a sparkling .500 for the 18U squad and continued his torrid pace of production with 5 RBI, 3 runs scored, and 6 hits over 12 AB.  Coach Bailey complimented Thomson’s two-way talent:  “Nolan was a key contributor on offence and defense. He provided timely hits and made some great plays defensively.”

  • Sim provided the 18U Titans with a complete game performance.  The future Mott Community College Bear’s quality start featured seven innings pitched, 2 earned runs yielded, 6 strikeouts, and only one base on balls. Coach Bailey was pleased with his starter’s control:  “Graham had command of 3 pitches and threw all 3 for strikes. He showed a veteran presence on the mound and went the distance for the 1st time this season.”

  • Lanoue picked up his fifth win of the CPBL season and hurled another quality start for the 18U Titans. A beacon of consistency, Lanoue’s stats line included 6 innings pitched, 3 earned runs allowed, 6 strikeouts, and only one walk.  His pitching performance was a pleasing one for Coach Bailey:   “Eric continued doing what he does best. He created weak contact and his command is what we expect it to be.”

The recent play of the 18U Titans has caught the eye of Titans Director of Player Development Eddie McKiernan. Coach McKiernan believes “the team developed a winning culture and it got contagious for the group.” McKiernan credited the veteran coaching staff for the team’s rapid improvement: “Denis Bailey, Andrew Graham, and Al Bailey have done a great job teaching these young men how to win.”  Coach McKiernan attributed some narrow-margin victories as crucial factors in this team’s growing momentum:  “A couple late comeback wins really turned it around for the 18U Titans and they have run with it. It's a very confident group and I am extremely proud of the young men and coaching staff.” The Titans’ Player Development leader offered a closing compliment with wider program expectations:  “What the 18U Titans are doing is awesome and what we expect this kind of performance from all our teams from top to bottom.”

As the CPBL’s sixth-seeded team, the 18U Titans will open the 2022 CPBL Double Elimination playoffs versus the third-seeded Toronto Mets at 9 AM on Thursday, June 23 at the University of Toronto (Scarborough). Coach Bailey’s expectations regarding his red-hot team were clear:  “Our coaching staff’s plan going into playoffs is to continue with what we are doing. There are absolutely zero selfish approaches offensively or defensively. To continue buying into what we have worked so hard on. Always play the game the right Way, Play it Hard, play it with respect. Make memories that will last each of us a lifetime.” A win over the Mets pits them against the winner of the Fieldhouse Pirates / Ottawa Watson Elite tilt at 3 PM at UT(S).  A loss to the Mets would result in an elimination game at 6 PM at UT (S) versus the losing team between the Pirates and OWE.

18U Playoff Schedule *Final*