The Cranbrook Bandits junior ‘B’ team’s first season is in the books and while it ended with three postseason losses, the team left it all out on the field over the weekend.
In their first visit to the American Legion Montana League State ‘B’ class tournament from Friday to Saturday, the U17 Bandits lost 11-0 to the host Bitterroot Red Sox, 15-12 to the 406 Flyers and 12-5 to the Missoula Mavericks.
According to head coach Ryan Phillips, while it was disappointing to not get rewarded for their efforts, he was impressed with the team.
“I thought we did well, we put in a really good effort and the guys really tried hard,” Phillips said. “We came close in the second game against the 406 Flyers. We had the lead a couple of times against them and just couldn’t get the win.”
The defeats at the tournament extended the team’s losing streak to 23 straight games. Overall, the team finished their expansion year with an 8-23 record.
“It was nice to see the total improvement throughout the entire team since the beginning of the season,” Philips said of the tournament. “I couldn’t be happier as a coach in that aspect.”
While it was often a tough learning experience, Philips has said all year that the process of playing more established teams would be good for the young group.
“Some of our guys had never played competitive ball before so for them to get a chance to see some of these ball clubs, where a lot of their players have been playing since they were five, was good for them,” he explained. “I think that next year, we’re going to be a really competitive team.
“Some of these guys are going to be putting in a lot of work during the off-season and we can only get better moving forward.”
While the coach isn’t sure how many spots will be available for players on his team to move up to the ‘A’ squad next year, Philips said that he has put several names forward.
“I’ve done private interviews with those guys who I think have the potential to move on… they have a chance if they put in the work.”
In addition to the players, Philips also said that the year was a big learning experience for himself as a first-time head coach.
“I’ve learned a lot that I’ll be working on for next season,” he said. “You can never learn everything about the game of baseball, it’s a thinking man’s sport, and so moving forward I just want to be the best coach that I can be and hopefully next season will be better than this one.”