The Cranbrook Bandits Junior ‘B’ team are determined to show that they belong this season and made a statement in their first weekend of conference play.
After failing to win a game against American Legion Montana League competition in their inaugural 2017 campaign, the U-17 baseball team pulled off back-to-back wins in their league opener over the weekend. Facing the Libby Loggers ‘B’ team on the road, the Bandits won 10-0 and then pulled off a narrow 5-3 victory.
“You could feel heading into the conference play that there was extra energy and a little bit of nerves [too], but the guys were solid and ready,” said head coach Robin King. “One of our mottos is ‘team first’ [and] we’ve done okay in that [department] so far, but this weekend [our] guys were unselfish and their work and actions really supported each other.”
On Saturday, the squad played a pair of exhibition tuneup matches in Trail, before heading to Libby for a Sunday doubleheader. According to King, the boys were sharp all weekend.
“[Trail] was a very good opportunity to see some guys in some different positions,” he said. “We’re still learning and we’ve got some guys on the mound that haven’t had a lot of time [pitching] and we got some quality appearances by them.
“They were good competition [and] every time you’re out there and compete hard, you grow a little bit as an athlete.”
The Bandits won the first game on Saturday 14-11, before falling 7-9 in the rematch. Against the Loggers, however, their first outing was a complete and dominant effort.
“We had incredible pitching and great defence,” King explained. “There were some tough times, a couple of errors, but guys didn’t jump on each other. They said’ it’s okay, let’s get the next one’ which is exactly what we want. We saw their confidence build and as a result we had two really solid games.”
After a five-inning mercy win, the Bandits found themselves in trouble in their next game but displayed enormous character. Down 3-1 going into the seventh and final inning, Cranbrook scored four runs and then followed it up with solid pitching to pick up their second win of the young season.
Overall, the Junior Bandits are 8-6 this season. Last year the team started out with eight straight wins before going on a 20 game losing streak.
“From where we started this year to what we showed this weekend was leaps and bounds,” King said. “When they see it working, they buy into and they’re going to have to [keep buying into it] because these conference games get tougher and tougher as we move forward.”
Next weekend, the team is once again on the road with a doubleheader against the Kalispell Lakers ‘B’ team on Saturday and a pair of games against the Glacier Twins ‘B’ team on Sunday.