Brad McLeod Photo                                Cranbrook Bandits ‘A’ player Tatsuki Ishihara runs towards home plate during the team’s home game against the Lethbridge Lakers on Saturday, May 27.

Brad McLeod Photo Cranbrook Bandits ‘A’ player Tatsuki Ishihara runs towards home plate during the team’s home game against the Lethbridge Lakers on Saturday, May 27.

Cranbrook Bandits ‘A’ team kick off season with win

Team beats Kootenai Valley Rangers 7-6 in Eureka, second game called after five innings

It was an interesting start to the Cranbrook Bandits inaugural season in the American Legion Montana ‘A’ league, to say the least.

The Bandits, who have spent the past few seasons as a ‘B’ team, travelled down to Eureka, Montana on Wednesday and beat the home Kootenai Valley Rangers 7-6 in a nailbiter in their opener.

After battling back-and-forth, the Bandits managed to secure a 3-0 lead but then gave it right back to the Rangers on defence.

Although they managed to squeak out the single run victory, head coach Paul Mrazek was not pleased with the way the team played.

“We scraped out a win [but] we did not play well,” Mrazek said. “We didn’t pitch well the whole day. Between the two games [on Wednesday] there were 19 free passes.

“We can’t be giving up free passes like that and putting guys on base. We’ve got to make them swing the bat [and] let the defence do the work.”

Although the day was supposed to feature a doubleheader, after five and a half innings into game two, it was too dark to play any longer.

“The ball was hard to see [and] you can’t play in the dark [because] people get hurt,” Mrazek said. “It ended in a tie and we’re going to have to find out from the commissioner what we do [about that].”

Game two was an even more frustrating experience for the Bandits, with 13 of their 19 free passes coming in that contest alone.

Although the Rangers had a 13-7 lead at one point in the game, right before the umpires called the night the Bandits tied it 13-13.

The entire weekend was a disappointment for the coach.

“We didn’t pitch well and we weren’t putting the ball in play enough to win,” Mrazek said. “The pitchers really need to throw strikes, bottom line.”

The Bandits will be back at home this weekend and will play a game against a Bandits Alumni team in a special event on Saturday.

“It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for awhile and [now] we’re actually doing it,” Mrazek said of the first ever Alumni game. “This is the 19th season for the Bandits and there are going to be about 18 alumni who are going to play.”

The game will take place at 4 p.m. and feature nine innings of wood bat action between the current ‘A’ players and former members of the organization.

“[The Alumni team] ranges from players who played last year to players who played 15 years ago,” Mrazek explained. “It should be a good game, there are some guys on the younger-side that can still throw off the bump and I think it’s going to be a fun day.”

Mrazek said that both the alumni and the team’s current players are excited about the game.

“[Our guys] know that it’s not going to be easy [thoug],” he said. ” They know that they’re going to be going up against Tyler Thorn who throws really well [and] just got back from the University of Calgary and [also] a few [other] guys that can still play.”

The Bandits next regular season action will be on Sunday, June 4 on the road with a doubleheader against the Mission Valley Mariners.

The U17 ‘B’ team will start their season on June 10 with a pair of games against the Bitterroot Red Sox.