The Cranbrook Bandits junior team lost a close game to the Kalispell Lakers in the semi-final to close out their 2019 season. File photo

Junior Bandits strong at Montana State Invitational

The Bandits battled hard in the tournament that saw them lose a close game in the semi-finals

The Cranbrook Junior Bandits had a successful weekend at the Montana State Invitational.

From July 11-14 in Hamilton, Montana the Bandits were resilient in their games going 3-0 in round-robin play.

“The kids exceed expectations,” said Tyler Thorn, coach. “They came and battled the entire weekend. We took on some tough teams and a team we hadn’t beaten this year and went 3-0 in the round-robin. Had a couple come from behind victories, so the kids they played the entire game all seven innings, and didn’t back down the entire weekend. It was good to see the heart that they showed. They really represented not only Canada but the Bandits organization very well.”

The Bandits started the tournament with a 6-4 win over the Kalispell Lakers and kept that energy going into the tournament.

Their second game of the tournament the Bandits beat the Glacier Twins 13-10, this was the first time the Bandits got a win against the Twins this season. In their final game of round-robin play, it took extra innings but they were able to beat the Missoula Mavericks 7-6.

Going into playoff action, the Bandits met the Bitterroot Red Sox for a quarterfinal matchup. The Bandits were able to get a 2-1 win and move onto semi-final action where they went against the Kalispell Lakers.

After a hard-fought game, the Lakers narrowly got the 9-8win, which marked the end of the tournament of the Bandits.

The success at the tournament was a team effort, with contributions coming from everyone.

Thorn notes Braycen Dube stood out as a leadoff hitter, and coming into tight games to pitch, as well as Brett Potter and Edyn Barber playing defence stood out for him.

“Everyone contributed,” said Thorn. “Everyone got on base, everyone had base hits and everyone made the best of the innings that they got.”

Hitting the ball has been a characteristic of the team all year long, and at the tournament, Thorn said they continued to keep that up.

“The entirety of the tournament we had runners on base, we were putting pressure on their pitchers, running the bases very well and executing our set plays … we were very aggressive throughout the entire tournament just like we have been the entire season,” he explained.

RELATED: PHOTOS: Senior Bandits cap off regular season going 3-1

Now that the Bandits have played their last games of the season, Thorn said the season was great overall and the exceed expectations with the team having an 18-17 record for the year.

“This is the third year that the U17 program has been running and we are already finishing seasons above .500, so it’s very good to see … Before this year there wasn’t a whole lot of people talking about the Bandits program, especially at this age group. Now I think we have shaken up our conference and we will be one of the teams to beat for the coming seasons,” he said.

With such a successful year and tournament, Thorn couldn’t say enough positive things about the team.

“I’ve never seen a group with more heart. These kids are fighters. No matter what the score is, no matter how many outs we have left, they battle,” he said. “You can’t count these kids out, they definitely don’t quit until that last out is called.”

The junior Bandits will now have three players age out (Michael Schieman, Fisher Nelson and Drake Simek) with them heading to the U19 team.

Even though the junior team is finished for the season, the senior team will be starting their district playoffs in Libby, Montana on July 18.

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