Cranbrook Bandits ‘B’ team kick off Montana State tournament on Thursday

Junior baseball team focused on defensive game in final action of the year at league championship

It’s been a challenging inaugural season for the Cranbrook Bandits U17 junior ‘B’ team, but they have one last chance to go out on a positive note in Hamilton, Montana this weekend.

After going winless in their last 20 games, the American Legion Montana State Class ‘B’ championship tournament will provide the Bandits with at least three more opportunities to earn a win.

Every team in the conference was invited to the tournament, which will feature eight ‘B’ teams, and it will be a single-game elimination affair.

The Bandits open the tourney on Thursday night against the host Bitterroot Red Sox. If they lose, they will enter a consolation bracket, but if they win, their championship hopes will stay alive.

Three wins guarantees a placement in the finals and two more victories will earn a tournament win.

“I just want them to prove to me that I’ve done well as a coach,” said the team’s skipper Ryan Phillips. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement in practice these last few weeks. I just want to [see] that they’ve learned the game properly [and have] good attitudes on the bench [and] on the field.

“[We need to] play seven strong innings, get 21 outs [and] if all goes well, we’ll hopefully get a few wins out of this weekend.”

While the Bandits lost their most recent game 12-1 to the Edmonton Jays in Medicine Hat last weekend, Phillips is hopeful that their recent training sessions will help yield better results.

“Our focus [in practice] lately has been on defence,” Phillips said. “For whatever reason, we seem to be able to play a couple of strong innings [but then] have a couple lapses in concentration that will cost us.

“We’re really trying to cut down on the physical errors, as well as [the] mental errors. We’ve had batting practice, but we’ve had a strong focus on our defence.”

Overall this season, the ‘B’ Bandits have an 8-20 record. In their two regular-season games against the Red Sox on June 10, Cranbrook lost 14-0 and 13-0 in five inning mercy defeats.

The Bandits will travel to Hamilton with a full roster, 14 players, for their final games of the year.