The Canadian Tire Cardinals won’t have back-to-back perfect seasons, but the Andrew Agencies Senior AA Baseball League club isn’t worried about that. Instead, the players are squarely focused on repeating as provincial Senior AA champions this weekend in Hamiota.
The Cardinals, who won last year’s provincial final 8-3 over the Hamiota Red Sox, are back this season after topping the Brandon-based league with a 12-1-2 regular-season record, but they are more of a battle-tested team this season. The Cardinals were pushed to the brink in their best-of-three league semifinal and needed three runs in the seventh inning of Game 3 to survive it.
Chris Kennedy, who manages the team and plays second base, thinks that may play to the team’s advantage this weekend.
"I think that was a great thing for us," he said. "In our semifinal Game 3, we had a very tight game where it was back and forth, and they were playing really well. I think that just gets us sharper going into provincials."
Kennedy pointed to his team’s pitching and defence as being the keys to getting to Sunday’s semifinals, but the road won’t be easy. The Cardinals have been placed in a pool with the host Hamiota Red Sox, who topped the South West Baseball League regular season with a 15-1 mark, the Minnedosa Mavericks, who went 13-2 in the Santa Clara Baseball League, and the Springfield Braves.
"I see Minnedosa and Hamiota as two of the best teams in the province," Kennedy said. "You never know what to expect from a Winnipeg team. One of the favourites, in my opinion, won’t even make the semifinals out of our pool, so we’re going to have to be at our best to get to Sunday."
Greg Facey, Hamiota’s player-coach, also views the pool as tough.
His team is also motivated for the weekend as the Red Sox are looking to make amends for losing last year’s provincial and league finals. Hamiota’s off to a good start as it currently has a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five South West League final and would like to add a provincial crown before finishing off its series with Boissevain.
Facey believes the Red Sox can reach their goals and knows the hometown support will help them on their quest to the provincial title.
"It’s huge," he said. "Our support here in the community is unbelievable and it’s gotten the community going. It’s obviously a big baseball town and I expect the crowds to be big."
Hamiota takes on Springfield today at 4 p.m., while Minnedosa will play the Cardinals at 1:30 p.m.
The other pool, which features the South West league regular-season runner-up Elkhorn Expos (11-5) and the Border West Baseball League regular-season champion Baldur Regals (11-5), will have its games in Oak River. Baldur and Elkhorn will meet today at 1:30 p.m., followed by Teulon taking on Thompson at 4 p.m. A home run contest will be held in Hamiota at 7 p.m.
The round robin concludes on Saturday, with the semifinals and final to be played in Hamiota on Sunday. The championship game is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Regardless of what happens, the Red Sox season won’t end for a while. British Columbia dropped out of the western Canadian senior baseball championship, which will be held in Regina from Aug. 22-24, and Hamiota has secured the extra spot awarded to Manitoba.