It went down to the final innings for the Cranbrook Bandits as they picked up two wins in four games during a tournament in Kalispell over the weekend.
The Bandits won their opener against the hosts at 8-6, before dropping a close game at 6-4 to Calgary, which was decided in the final inning. The Cranbrook team rebounded for an 11-10 win over the Whitefish Glaciers, before dropping a 15-5 decision to Kalispell in a rematch of their opening game.
Tied up at 6-6 after seven innings on Friday, the Bandits took an edge against the host Lakers at the top of the eighth when Brenden Bird scored off a double from Devon Marra. Brandon Ouilette also scored from third after the Kalispell pitcher walked a Bandits hitter.
Ryotara Yukawa then caught a line drive, while Marra threw for two outs to end the game.
“That was a good game, we were behind and came back twice to take the lead,” said Bandits head coach Paul Mrazek. “They tied it up and we went into extra innings.
“The players executed and got the bunt down so we could advance the runner to third so we could get him into scoring position with nobody out.”
That play was started by Bird, who bunted to advance to first, before heading to second and third off hits from Jake Bromley and Ouilette.
“We scored two to take the lead and they couldn’t come back as they were the home team and had last bats,” said Mrazek. “So that was great to see the kids keep battling and come from behind to win that game.”
Bird scored in the first inning, while Ouilette also put the Bandits on the board in the second.
By the bottom of the fourth, the Lakers had a 3-2 lead, but Bromley tied it up, before Marra and Connor Armstrong put the Bandits back ahead by two at the top of the fifth.
However, Kalispell scored twice in the bottom to even things up.
Bird scored in the sixth to make it 6-5 but the Lakers tied it up in the bottom of the 7th to force extra innings.
Armstrong and Marra both had a pair of RBI’s, while singles came from Ouilette and Tyler Thorn.
Thorn and Marra also shared pitching duties at four innings apiece and both throwing for three strikeouts.
The Bandits followed up with a close game against a team out of Calgary on Saturday, losing 6-4 in the final inning when the opposition scored twice.
“We came out strong—we were up 4-1 and we lost 6-4, so there’s some little things that we need to improve on there,” said Mrazek. “When we’re winning, we gotta stay aggressive and keep battling and finish off the game, we can’t let other teams back in.”
Right after that, the team headed back out onto the diamond to face the Glaciers, coming back with four runs in the fourth inning to pick up a one-run lead and win 11-10.
“Both teams didn’t pitch well or hit well and there were a lot of errors, it was a high scoring game,” said Mrazek. “So we need to improve on base running, situational hitting, hitting the ball on the ground so we can advance the hitter, getting our bunts down—we had some situations where we didn’t get it on the ground, we fouled it off.”
Yukawa, Marra and Thorn scored twice, while Bird, Armstrong, Ouilette, Cedar Kemp and Rylan D’Etchevery also added to the board.
Armstrong and Ouilette both had two RBI’s while Bromley had three.
That win advanced them to the championship game against their hosts on Sunday in a rematch of their opener, but the Lakers handed the Bandits a tough 15-5 loss.
“Unfortunately, we were getting thin on arms and we really didn’t have enough pitching,” said Mrazek.
With that in mind, he’s keeping his pitchers after practice along with some infielders and catchers to work on positional play.
Scoreless after two innings, the Lakers went up five runs in the bottom of the third, erasing a tenuous lead from the Bandits after Yukawa scored off an RBI from Marra.
By the bottom of the fourth, the Lakers went up another six runs.
Armstrong scored on an error, while Marra doubled to bring Ouilette home. Thorn singled to bring Marra home and Kemp added the fifth Bandits run off a ground ball from D’Etchevery.
However, that would be it, as the Lakers added another four runs at the bottom of the fifth.