Many of the players on the Brandon Midget AAA Knights baseball team have a bitter taste left in their mouths that they hope will be washed away this weekend.
Most were members of Brandon’s Midget AA squad that lost the AA provincial final to the Rock Lake Regals in Neepawa last Sunday and they don’t want it to happen again this weekend in Morden.
"It gives us that extra spark we need knowing how it tastes to lose in such a good final and close game like that," said Clark Whelpton, who plays third base, catches and pitches for the Knights. "Coming so far and coming up short like that, it definitely gets us more motivated for this weekend. Hopefully moving forward we can pick up where we left off with our bats and our arms and get that much further this weekend."
The Knights are a confident bunch going into the three-day championship, but they know getting to Sunday’s playoffs could be a challenge. They’ve been placed in a pool with Bonivital, St. James, Pembina Hills, Red River Valley and Interlake, all of whom they will play except for Interlake in the preliminary round. Only two teams from the pool will advance to the semifinals.
The Knights also needs to overcome the fatigue the players experienced in Monday’s Andrew Agencies Senior AA game, which they won 8-7 over the Diamond Dawgs. Head coach Brad Schoonbaert plans to let his players relax their arms in practice this week to recover, especially when it comes to his pitchers.
He knows the team has a strong staff in Whelpton, Marshal Burgess, Mitch Lyall and Jordan Robertson and they solidified it by picking up Jay Pringle and Aaron Pugh from Boissevain. Schoonbaert is confident they’ll be fine this weekend, but he is concerned with the team getting its bats going again.
"Our pitching last weekend was second to none," he said. "Our defence at times wasn’t as strong as we’re characteristically used to. The one thing that was obvious to us was inconsistent bats in both games Sunday. That was pretty prevalent. We’re working hard this week swinging every day and hoping to amend that."
The other pool at provincials will include Midwest, North Winnipeg, Winnipeg South, South Central and Carillon.
While Whelpton admits the team is tired, he’s also excited for Friday to come so that the Knights can begin their quest for a provincial banner.
"Our pool is pretty strong," the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Brandonite said. "We’ve got a lot of good Winnipeg teams, but we are a strong team as well. We have a lot of pitching and a lot of great bats and we’re just a positive team. I think that’s truly what will take us a long way this weekend.
"We’re chomping at the bit here, especially with that bad taste in our mouths after last weekend. The sooner we can get out on the ball field this weekend, the better it will be for us mentally and physically."