By Jeff Gard/Today’s Northumberland
First named to Team Ontario in 2020 before the tournament was postponed due to COVID-19, it was a long road to the Canada Summer Games for Cobourg’s Tucker Firth.
Turns out, it was worth the wait as Ontario captured the gold medal as the tournament concluded early on Saturday evening instead of Sunday.
“It’s been a very long couple years here,” Firth said. “It was a long delayed time, but we finally got it done and what an experience it was. The entire start to finish of the week, it was a very special experience for me.”
Ontario won nine games from Tuesday to Saturday, including two of three on the final day of competition. The host club’s only defeats during the week were to Nova Scotia, including one on Saturday before the third time was the charm that evening.
Through preliminary play, Ontario recorded wins of 10-1 over Newfoundland & Labrador, 8-1 over Quebec, 9-2 over British Columbia, 10-0 over Manitoba, 6-1 over Saskatchewan, 12-2 over Alberta and 12-1 over New Brunswick and had a 5-3 loss against Nova Scotia on Wednesday.
They lost again to Nova Scotia 8-1 early in the day Saturday in the 1st vs 2nd place game with the winner advancing directly to the championship contest, which was originally scheduled for Sunday.
With the threat of a Sunday storm, Firth said the Ontario team found out they had to play in a game that would send the winner to the gold-medal final at 7 p.m. while the losing team would take home the bronze medal.
Ontario defeated Saskatchewan 5-2 to earn a re-match against Nova Scotia, which they doubled up 6-3 to capture the gold.
“We had a pretty resilient group and we were able to adjust to it and we found a way to get it done,” Firth, the Ontario club’s shortstop, said. “It was an awesome experience and crazy all-around day, but we got the job done. We handled ourselves very professionally all week long which got us prepared for that day. There was no doubt in my mind going into that last game, using the momentum after we beat Saskatchewan there, that we would be able to get the job done.”
Firth said the Canada Summer Games tournament was a grind, but praised the organizing committee, staff, coaches, teammates and families that came to support the team.
Having that family support, including his cousin Cooper Firth, provided Tucker with a big highlight during the win over B.C. when he had a multi-hit game including a home run.
“When I hit that home run my little cousin was able to run and get the ball,” Tucker Firth said. “That made his week and he was so excited to show me after the game. He ran it up to me, gave me a big hug and he showed me the ball and I was able to sign it for him so that was a pretty cool experience for me.”
Saturday’s win over Saskatchewan was another highlight as it paced Ontario to the victory over Nova Scotia.
“We knew going into that game it wasn’t going to be easy. We were kind of running low after losing the first game, but we knew that the job wasn’t done,” Firth said. “Knowing that we were going to have to play back-to-back games (to win gold) that was also in the back of a lot of our minds along with our coaches, like how we were going to handle the team and how we were going to handle our pitchers. That was a big thing for us, but we were all pulling on the same rope so we were able to go at the game however it was going to be laid out.”
Meanwhile, Firth has played a lot of ball this summer, but hockey is also a big focus for the former Cobourg Cougars junior A captain. He was in North Carolina a couple weeks ago helping with on-ice instruction once again with the Justin Williams Elite Hockey Camp, which was previously held in Cobourg.
Williams offered great hospitality and Firth enjoyed touring the Carolina Hurricanes practice facility as well.
“It was pretty special for me, growing up watching hockey as much as I did and being a fan of the game and playing it,” Firth said.
While he’s still planning his next steps following graduation from the junior ranks, with more news to come soon about his potential entry into pro hockey, Firth will certainly be cheering on his former club.
“Hockey around here is getting started too and I’m excited for my previous team the Cobourg Cougars to get going again and hoping for nothing but success for them and cheering them on.”