Oh, Canada! Vancouver three-peats

Hometown hero Robson caps sophomore season with title

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com | September 9, 2013 9:59 PM ET

Vancouver never won a Northwest League title in the first 11 years of its existence. Now its players are celebrating its third in a row.

Among those taking the most joy from the victory Monday evening was starting pitcher and British Columbia native Tom Robson.

Robson, who grew up in Ladner, a small town of about 20,000 people about 30 minutes south of Vancouver's Nat Bailey Stadium, scattered three hits over a career-high 6 1/3 innings as the short-season Canadians blanked the Boise Hawks, 5-0, to three-peat as Northwest League champions.

"There are no words to really describe it, said Robson, who had about 120 family and friends in the stadium Monday night. "Champagne, everyone going crazy, music, everyone's having the time of their life.

"I've always dreamed of playing here. To pitch in a game like this and win a championship, there are no words. It's just awesome."

The victory gave the Canadians the Northwest League's first three-peat in almost two decades. Boise last won three consecutive crowns from 1993-'95.

"You set the team goals at the beginning of the year and winning the championship is right up at the top," second-year manager Clayton McCullough said. "To finish it like this, this is what you play for.

"I've been a part of two [championships] and they are both unique in their own way. I know how hard it was to win the first one, but this one is special in its own right. To do it again, it holds its own place."

Vancouver topped Tri-City for its first championship in team history in 2011 and beat Boise one year to the day last season to become the first back-to-back winners in six years.

L.B. Dantzler gave the hosts the lead with a two-out two-RBI double to center field in the third inning. That's the way the score stayed -- despite Boise bringing the potential tying run to the plate three different times -- until the eighth when Michael Reeves drove home Dawel Lugo from second base and Ian Parmley hit a two-run single to center field.

Alonzo Gonzalez worked around one hit and one walk over 1 2/3 innings in relief of Robson, and Chuck Ghysels induced a ground ball off the bat of final batter Jacob Rogers to shortstop Dawel Lugo to wrap up a perfect ninth and set off a wild celebration on the infield.

"As soon as the ball left Lugo's hand, you could see it was on line," McCullough said. "The ups and downs, it culminated in that one play at the end to win a championship. To celebrate on our home field and with our crowd, it's tough to put into words. It was a great celebration. They wanted to win it all."

The Canadians squeaked into the playoffs on the penultimate day of the regular season, and as the North Division's Wild Card, swept the first- and second-half champion Everett AquaSox.

In Game 1 of the Northwest League Division Series with the AquaSox on Tuesday, Robson allowed one run on five hits and a walk over five innings.

The Canadians lost the opener of the Finals, 5-0, but they tied the series with a 4-2 win on Sunday before completing the series comeback in the winner-take-all finale.

"The groundball to the shortstop, everybody jumped up on the railing," Robson said of the final out of the season. "We waited for the play to end then everything exploded, people jumping out of the dugout, screaming, yelling, throwing everything in the air.

"To do it in my hometown, it was pretty surreal ... It was sweet. It was awesome. It's something I'll never forget."

Selected by the Blue Jays in the fourth round of the 2011 Draft out of Delta Secondary School in Ladner, a championship ring tops off a fine season for the 20-year-old right-hander.

He was 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in six games -- five starts -- with the Appalachian League Bluefield Blue Jays, and he went 3-0 with an 0.94 mark in seven other outings with the Canadians.

Robson had pitched six innings three times with Vancouver, including the regular-season finale on Aug. 29, but Monday's start represented the first time in his pro career that he pitched into the seventh frame.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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