The Cranbrook Bandits senior ‘A’ team were in Kalispell, Montana over the weekend, participating in the annual ‘Canadian Days’ tournament.
The U19 American Legion club competed valiantly in the tourney, making their way to the ‘A’ championship game, but went home on a sour note after a 15-0 loss to the hometown Kalispell Lakers.
“Overall, it was a strong [showing],” said Bandits head coach Paul Mrazek. “We played three solid games. The first two a little bit more [than the last].
“For the most part, we pitched well, hit the ball well [and] played tight defensively.”
The Bandits kicked off the weekend with a great offensive performance. In their only game on Friday, the team picked up a 9-4 win over the Calgary Redbirds ‘A’ squad.
The team benefitted from a strong start against Calgary and scored on a walk, a single by Greg Rebagliati, a single by Hayden Mastel, and a wild pitch in the first inning.
Dan Mercandelli earned the win after throwing two innings, allowing two runs, six hits, striking out three, and walking zero. Two relievers also helped the Bandits close out the victory with Carson Meggison throwing two innings.
Cranbrook had ten hits in the game. Linden Meggison led the way with three hits in three at-bats.
On Saturday, the Bandits continued to shine offensively and beat the Camrose Cougars 13-7. Carter Meggison was once again a leader and drove in runs on a triple in the second and a single in the fifth.
Although the Cougars scored four runs in the second inning to take a considerable lead, Cranbrook stepped up to the plate and answered back with eight runs of their own.
Although Rylan D’Etcheverrey started the game for the Bandits, Brenden Bird earned the win after throwing four innings, surrendering four runs, six hits, striking out two, and walking zero batters.
Later on Saturday, the Bandits were brought back to earth by the Kalispell Lakers ‘A’ team. Cranbrook was tied 3-3 heading into the seventh inning but allowed two runs in a heartbreaking finish.
Overall, the Bandits collected six hits. Brandon Thorn and D’Etcheverrey each had multiple hits in the losing effort and Thorn went 3-for-4 at the plate, to lead the team.
“It could have been a 3-0, 3-1 game for us,” Mrazek said of the first loss to Kalispell. “There were a couple of plays that [should have been] made defensively.
“We needed to tighten up defensively, but [it’s] definitely a team that we [could] beat.”
On Sunday, the team played in the ‘A’ championship game paired against the same Kalispell side, but unfortunately did not build off their previous outing.
In the end, the game was a 15-0 blowout for the Lakers, without much for the Bandits to feel good about.
“We didn’t really show up,” Mrazek said of the final game of the weekend. “We came out and hit the ball hard right away. The first three hitters, two of them hit the ball hard and very well. Then after that, we didn’t have much happen.
“They went to sleep at the plate.”
Although Mrazek was reasonably pleased with the pitching performance of Meggison, he believed that the defensive game was very disappointing on Sunday and that the team still has a lot to learn.
“They have to understand what matters in the game,” he said. “When a guy gets a base hit, they can’t get down on themselves. We get base hits. It doesn’t mean if we get two base hits, the other team folds. They don’t fold. So, we’ve got to be strong mentally and try to relax out there defensively.”
Cranbrook will be at home next weekend for the Bandits Wood Bat Invitational tournament which will take place at Confederation Park from May 26 to 28.
The team will start their regular season play on the road against the Eureka Rangers on May 31.