After a few light weeks, the Cranbrook Bandits Senior ‘A’ baseball team has entered the stretch run of their summer season. Over the weekend, they got off to hot start with a pair of wins over the Libby Loggers.
Entering the Saturday doubleheader after 12 days away from game-action, the Bandits showed little rust and put up a 10-4 win in their first game. Following it up with an even more convincing 16-6 victory, head coach Paul Mrazek was impressed by his team’s play.
“[They were both] close games and we battled back,” Mrazek said. “In the first game, Dan Mercandelli pitched a complete game, threw 78 pitches and was very efficient. He did a great job [and] defence played well [and] it’s improving. We’re continuing to hit the ball really well [and now] really we’re just working on [our] defence.
“We did a good job. [Libby] is a well-coached team, they’re not as strong as they used to be, but we still played it right and got out of trouble when we could.”
The Loggers are currently at the bottom of the Montana-Alberta American Legion Baseball league’s West ‘A’ division with only one win in 10 games. After the sweep, the Bandits are climbing up the table and are at 4-4.
“Last year we won zero games in conference [and then] won a game at district playoffs,” Mrazek said. “So it’s been a big improvement already. We took a game from the [Bitterroot] Bucs, who are a very strong team [and] we took one from the Kalispell [Lakers], who won districts last year and went onto state.”
Overall, the Bandits are also at .500 with a record of 10-10 including their exhibition and tournament play. Mrazek believes that the team will keep getting better and better until the district tournament at the end of the month.
“The guys have been looking a lot better than the start of the year,” the coach explained. “We’re seeing good progress [and] seeing them relax. They’re loose and gaining confidence every week.”
The next two weeks will be jam-packed for the Bandits, as they are set to play 12 conference games by July 22. The team has a doubleheader against the Bitterroot Red Sox on Tuesday at home, before playing home-and-home doubleheaders with the Glacier Twins over the weekend.
Next Tuesday and Wednesday, they play the Kalispell Lakers and Libby Loggers at home, and then wrap up the regular season with the Missoula Mavericks in town on Saturday, July 21.
Speaking of their first challenge, Mrazek knows that it will be a good opportunity to see how his squad stacks up in the league.
“The Bitterroot Red Sox are a very well-coached and solid team,” he said. “[Their coach] has won three state championship with them. They are the top team in the conference, where things currently sit [so] it’s going to be good for us to see them and I think our guys can compete with them.”
The first game on Tuesday goes at 3:00 p.m. at Confederation Park in Cranbrook.