The Cranbrook Bandits nearly came up with a pair of wins in a Canada Day doubleheader with the Kootenai Valley Rangers, posting a 3-2 loss in extra innings before coming back with a decisive 12-2 victory in a rematch.
The Bandits played a tight defensively in their first matchup and scored twice late in the game to tie it up, but the Rangers took advantage of a passed ball and ended up scoring to take the win.
“Game One, we weren’t getting the bunts down and we weren’t able to move people around. We had eight in scoring position, the bases loaded twice, two guys on third twice and we didn’t cash them in,” said Bandits head coach Paul Mrazek.
Bandits pitcher Tyler Thorn had a monster of a game on the mound, throwing 121 total pitches for eight and two-thirds of an inning. Thorn had seven strikeouts, walked four and gave up seven hits.
Daniel Mercandelli came in relief to close out the game on the last out.
The Rangers scored a run in the third, and added another in the 6th for a two-run lead late in the game. However, the Bandits replied with a crucial final inning, scoring twice to tie the game and force extra innings.
With the bases loaded, Rangers pitcher walked Kei Chlopan, which scored Thorn. The following play, Brenden Bird brought home Noah Renette.
The two teams were scoreless in the eight inning, but the Rangers earned a run in the ninth to take the win.
“We played very well defensively,” said Bandits catcher Brandon Ouilette. “At the beginning of the game, we left a lot of guys stranded on the base, we didn’t cash them when we had the opportunity, so in the end that hurt us.
“We were down two, and we kind of battled back, so it showed a lot of character, but we just didn’t have enough to put it away in the first game.”
The two teams took a break before heading back out onto the field, and the Bandits hard and fast, scoring five runs in the first inning and four in the second on the road to a 12-2 win.
The bats went to work for six hits, while Devon Marra threw the heat on the mound for eight strikeouts in five innings.
Marra and Thorn both had a pair of RBI’s, with Jake Bromley adding one.
Mrazek said the team was bunting the ball much better in the second game, which helped move the runners around base.
“Instead of going with just a straight squeeze, we implemented a safety squeeze a number of times and that really got things going in the first inning and got us five runs on the board,” Mrazek said.
“You get that, get them throwing the ball around, a couple base hits, they make an error, and it worked out well. We kept doing that the whole game.”
“We laid down a lot more sac-bunts in the second game, and the bunts kind of got the ball rolling for us today,” Ouilette said.
“Once we got the base runners on the bases, we just kind of moved them along. We played more of a team game at the plate.”
The Bandits head down to Polson, Montana, for a tournament this weekend. Next home action will be another double-header next Tuesday (July 8th) against the Whitefish Glacier ‘B’ Twins. Games begin at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.