The Cranbrook Bandits baseball program was back in action for the first time this year over the weekend, with both American Legion squads playing in Montana.
The Senior ‘A’ team played at the annual Loggertown Wood Bat Classic in Libby and won their first game before falling in the next two. The Junior ‘B’ group, meanwhile, lost two games and then won two against teams from Mission Valley and Clark Fork in the small town of Ronan.
According to ‘A’ team head coach Paul Mrazek, the Senior group was quite strong offensively off the hop and proved that they should have a solid season moving forward. In game one against the Missoula Mavericks, the Bandits won 8-7 in a dramatic comeback. The next day, they lost 12-5 to the Calgary Redbirds and then fell 15-8 to the Mission Valley Mariners.
“It was a good weekend, we hit the ball very well [and] the guys have very good approaches at the plate, hitting for the team and for the situation,” Mrazek said. “We generated 21 runs in three games so, offensively, when you’re scoring eight runs in a game, you should probably be winning most of those games.”
Since the team has only been together for a week, the coach is not too concerned about the defensive lapses that led to their 1-2 record.
“This week [in practice] we’re going to get more into our defensive rotations and [get] our bullpen [throwing] since our pitchers didn’t do any work last week,” he said. “We’ll be fine. We’ve [just] got to tighten up on our defence and make a couple of plays to take the bat out of [their hands] and not let guys get extra at-bats.”
As for the ‘B’ team, new head coach Robin King said that their newly assembled group also took some time to get comfortable but showed real improvement. While King did not keep note of the scores in their four exhibition games, he said the final two games were very well executed.
“The first day, we were a little overwhelmed with the travel, coming together, building a new team and we were intimidated by the size and the skills of the other guys,” he explained. “The first day we didn’t compete to our level, but then we had a good chat after the game and [developed] the mottos ‘compete with confidence’ and ‘team first’.
“[On Sunday] we competed with confidence and everybody bought into the ‘team first’ approach [leading to] a great outcome.”
Over the weekend, the Junior team played against the Mission Valley Rockies three times and had one game against the Clark Fork Cougars. As a former coach in Calgary, who led two teams to Nationals in 2002 and 2003, King said that for the short training time they’ve had, he’s very impressed with the young Bandits.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming out to Cranbrook as far as the baseball program goes, but Paul Mrazek has done a great job building a program for these kids,” he said. “It was a tough competition [over the weekend]. We only had four days of being together prior to going down there. [Our opponents] had been together for over three weeks, plus the Mission Valley [team] has been together as a group for many, many years.
“We’ve [still] got so much to work on, [we’ll get into] more of our strategy with regards to the game and pick off plays and holding runners on, some cut plays and things like that and just building on their skillset so their confidence is even greater.”
Next weekend, the ‘A’ team will play at a tournament in Kalispell, Montana while the ‘B’ team have a pair of dates scheduled at home against Kalispell and Libby’s ‘B’ squads. Both teams will then host their own tournament, at Confederation Park, from May 25 to 27.