The Cranbrook Bandits are proving to be a hotbed for up-and-coming college baseball talent.
The Bandits, who play in the American Legion baseball league, have their 2022 season underway, after a long pandemic pause.
But in the meantime, some of the Bandits alumni are tearing it up at the College levels, or are well on their way.
Ryley Ducharme is the latest Bandit to commit to a college. He has signed with the Vancouver Island University to play for the Mariners, while studying Business Management.
Ducharme, who graduated from Prince Charles Secondary School in Creston in 2019, had to take some time off to rehab his arm.
“After high school I had issues with my shoulder … I did end up getting surgery done about a year ago,” he said.He’s has been going to the gym a lot, doing a lot of training to get the strength back in his throwing arm. “It was nice to get back to Plan A,” he said, of signing with VIU.
“He’s got a lot of potential,” said Bandits Head Coach Paul Mrazek. “A great outfielder with good arm strength, extremely fast and can hit with power.”
“I learned a lot, being with [the Bandits],” Ducharme added. “Coach has definitely been one of the biggest role models in my life. He gave me a lot of life skills — I wouldn’t have gone half as far in baseball without him.”
At VIU, Ducharme will be joining Carter Marlow, a former Bandit, and Alli Schroder, who last year became the first woman to sign with the Canadian College Baseball Conference. Schroder, from Fruitvale, played and trained with the Bandits in 2019 and 2020.
Both Marlow and Schroder are good friends of Ducharme.
Mrazek said both those players had successful seasons.
“Carter did really well, being selected to the 2nd All Conference Team. He had a fielding percentage of 96.3 and the 12 highest Batting Average in the league at .343. Alli held her own and was very effective in that league, pitching very well.
“She was picked up by the Brisbane Bandits in the Australian Women’s Baseball League for their playoffs. Alli pitched, played infield, and hit 3 home runs in their playoffs. She then came back to pitch for VIU in the CCBC playoffs. Alli had a great freshman year.”
Brett Potter signed last year with the University of Calgary Dinos, playing first base for the JV Team. Brett was named JV MVP and is staying in Calgary to play for the Dinos Summer Collegiate Team. And Carter White is with the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack in Kamloops. White was named Most Improved Player at the recent Wolfpack team awards.
Edyn Barber, a product of Cranbrook and the Bandits, is playing for Parksville in the B.C. Baseball Premier Baseball League.
“These guys heard about how good he was, and basically poached him,” Mrazek said. “He’s doing really well, but he’s getting lots of looks from different colleges. He finally got one from Northeastern Colorado Junior College, and he has just committed with them recently.”
Seven Bandits alumni are now either playing College baseball or committed to a college to play at the next level. Not bad for a team that had 11 players on it last year because of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Cranbrook Bandits’ season is well underway, and on the road. The team was down in Kalispell, Montana, May 21 and 22, where they went one and three. This weekend past the team was in Lethbridge, for for games against Lethbridge and Calgary Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, the Bandits defeated the Lethbridge Miners 14-4 and the Strive 10-0 with Owen Relkoff throwing a No Hitter. The righthander surrendered zero runs on zero hits over six innings, striking out 11 and walking zero.
“We’ve played some strong teams, a little bit older too,” Mrazek said. “We’ve started playing better, and [the Bandits players] just have to get comfortable. It’s not about who you play, it’s about how you play.
“They have to put a couple more pieces of the puzzle together, and they’re going to be just fine.”
The Bandits are in Cranbrook for a long homestead, June 4 through June 16, facing Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Calgary.