The Cranbrook Bandits ‘B’ team knew that it wouldn’t be an easy weekend and they were proved absolutely correct.
Despite entering the home 2017 Bandits Wood Bat Invitational with a perfect 8-0 preseason record, the tournament was made up of mostly ‘A’ level teams that provided a formidable challenge.
The U17 ‘B’ squad finished the weekend in sixth place out of six teams but did not walk away worse for wear. “It was a good experience,” said head coach Ryan Phillips-Clement after their final game, an 11-1 loss to the Lethbridge Lakers on Sunday morning. “The guys got a first-hand experience with some good teams [and] good pitching.
“What it all comes down to is them realizing that they need to be working a little harder in practice.”
The Bandits ‘B’ team opened the tournament against stiff competition. On Friday night, they took on the Calgary Redbirds who went a perfect 3-0 in the round robin and ended up winning the tournament.
The Redbirds put up consistent runs and shut the Bandits down defensively, turning a 6-0 lead after four innings into a 12-0 mercy win after five innings.
The next day, the Bandits faced the Calgary Jr. Dinos at Coronation Park in Kimberley and were blasted 17-1.
In their final game of the round robin, the Bandits put up a valiant effort and took Lethbridge to an extra inning before losing 8-7. The young group showed character in that game, recovering from a 3-0 deficit after two innings, tying the game 3-3 in the third and taking a 5-3 advantage in the fourth.
Unfortunately, despite the close contest on Saturday night, the Bandits could not carry any momentum into the fifth-place consolation game on Sunday.
“We were a little flat on the bats [with] not enough balls put in play,” Phillips-Clement said on the difference between Saturday and Sunday’s games against the Lakers. “Our pitching was a little bit off [again]. There were a few too many walks, a few too many first pitch balls and just the focus overall [wasn’t there].”
Although the Bandits survived the first inning only down 1-0 and got a run in the bottom of the second, the Lakers exploded at the top of the second with seven runs to take an 8-1 lead.
Lethbridge added three more runs in the third and then held the fort defensively to force a mercy fifth inning victory.
Although it was a tough way to go out, Phillips-Clement believes that the team learned a lot, especially from getting to watch a few of their ‘A’ opponents closely.
“[A] few of the guys were talking about one of the players on the other team [during the weekend that] was cranking the ball in,” the coach said. “It just goes to show that they are watching the game and that they can learn from other players. I think it definitely helps them see what their potential may be.”
Although the team only has an opportunity to practice twice a week, the Bandits will take full advantage of their training time.
“Pitching for sure [need works] and pitching mechanics specifically,” Phillips-Clement said. “Also we just need to get more reps in. Everyone needs to learn their position. Some of these guys haven’t played too much competitive ball, so they need to learn their position, get repetitions in and practice hard.”
Throughout the weekend the team utilized several pitchers including Cameron Reid, Michael Schieman, Will Doerksen, Nevada Joseph and Brad Traverse.
The Bandits ‘B’ boys will start their regular season play against the Mission Valley Mariners ‘B’ team on the road on Sunday, June 4.