They might be a brand new team, but the Cranbrook Bandits ‘B’ boys sure learned how to win quickly.
Playing in their inaugural weekend at home, the new junior squad of the Bandits program came out blazing against the 14U Calgary Redbirds picking up 11-0, 16-12, 16-7, and 17-3 victories over the weekend.
According to head coach Ryan Phillips-Clement, it was a very promising beginning for the young team.
“We didn’t have too many expectations coming into this weekend,” Phillips-Clement said. “We just wanted to see where everyone fit [in] and how they would do there. Lucky enough, [we got] four wins. I can’t complain … I’m really happy with these guys.”
While there was a fair amount of experimentation with the lineup throughout the nearly 12 hours of baseball played over the course of two days, a lot clicked immediately.
In the team’s first game on Saturday afternoon, the Bandits were offensively explosive early, building an 11-0 lead after just five innings.
“[Game one] went really well for us — everyone turned out [and] everyone came to swing the bat,” Phillips-Clement said. “Cam Reid, our starting pitcher did really well [too]. He pitched five solid innings and we ended up ‘mercying’ them. It couldn’t have gone any better for us.”
According to American Legion rules, if a team is up by 10 or more points after five innings, they are immediately declared winners. It was a perfect start for the Bandits.
In the immediate rematch, the Redbirds fought back hard and put the Cranbrook offence to the test.
“We started off a little bit flat, but we carried on,” the coach said. “We didn’t give up. They were up 7-2 at one point in the game and we didn’t hang our heads. We stayed positive and got the win.”
After Reid’s shutdown performance in game one, his fellow pitchers struggled to match his play. Will Doerkson, Alex Smith, and Carter Marlow all threw admirably in game two, but couldn’t sustain lengthy success.
Luckily, the Bandits offense was red-hot and the team pulled out a 16-12 win on the backs of their hitters.
“I thought our base running and our bats were definitely our strongest points [on Saturday],” Phillips-Clement said. “If we saw the pitcher was pitching a little bit slow or if we noticed he was throwing a breaking ball, we were taking off, right off the get-go.”
In their first game on Sunday, the Bandits once again got off to a slower than ideal start. In the third inning they were down 7-5, but they soon tightened up their game and pulled through.
“I had to remind the pitchers that we can’t be throwing too many first pitches for balls,” Phillips-Clement said of manufacturing their fifth inning comeback, in which they took a 12-7 lead. “I just reminded [everybody] to never give up and keep focussed throughout the whole game and sure enough, it went our way.”
A combination of tightened pitching — which ended with another solid inning from Reid — and great hitting, allowed the Bandits to win 16-7.
The weekend then ended very much as it started. To bookend the series with ‘mercy’ finishes, the Bandits grabbed an early 10-0 lead over the Redbirds in their second game on Sunday, and saw it through to a 17-3 win in five innings.
“[It] was another great outing from our pitcher Nevada Joseph,” Phillips-Clement said. “Five solid innings, only gave up the 3 runs, had a few walks but not too many [and] was always pounding the zone in strikes, [so] no complaints.”
In total, the Bandits outscored Calgary 60-22 and proved that they are definitely a gifted offensive team. While Phillips-Clements was encouraged by his team’s ability to hit the ball and rack up points over the weekend, he hopes they don’t get into bad habits.
“You get five runs on the board [and] you’re up by five, it’s a huge confidence boost [for our pitchers],” he said. “You feel like you can make a mistake here and there and it’s not going to matter.
“But at the same time, we can’t be too cocky. A few of the guys were up there swinging at stuff that they shouldn’t be swinging at. It’s just all about getting repetitions in, seeing pitches, finding the one you like and hitting it.”
Overall, however, the coach was very pleased with what he saw over the weekend and thought it was a great learning experience for a group that is only just starting to get to know each other.
“We never gave up,” the coach reflected. “There were two games where we came back and won, [so] the guys made me proud.
“[I noticed] little things here and there [that we need to work on]. Pitcher’s mechanics is one thing for sure — we need to be throwing more first pitches with strikes — [and] we want to have better success not falling behind in the first few innings in the game. [We just need to] tune it up nice and fine.”
The ‘B’ team’s next action will be next weekend, as they play in their first tournament in Calgary, Alberta from May 19 to 21.