The best Bantam and Peewee AAA baseball teams in Manitoba will be coming to Simplot Millennium Park this weekend and the host Brandon Knights are hoping to show they can compete with them.
Brandon’s bantam squad is young, with only four major-aged players, and head coach Grant Wilson knows that his team may look overmatched at times during the tournament. The Knights, who haven’t won many games this season, will lean on their four older players for leadership, but Wilson admits the team is in a different position than most of the 10 teams in the event in that Brandon is there for experience and will be relying on its younger players to step up as well.
"As a team, we know we don’t have that pitcher that will step on the mound and blow it past people and we know we don’t have someone who will step up to the plate and hit home runs to get us out of situations," he said. "We need to play some small ball and run the bases smart and defensively we need to play pretty clean.
"Basically, we’re asking our pitchers to keep it in the strike zone and make other teams hit it and hopefully our defence can get us out of situations. That’s what we’re looking for this weekend."
Brandon opens pool play on Friday with games against Parkland at 11 a.m. and Midwest at 6:30 p.m.
One thing the Knights have working in their favour is they haven’t had a home tournament this season with the Canada Day Classic getting rained out, and the players are excited to have one.
"Without question Canada Day weekend was a huge disappointment," Wilson said. "Everyone was looking forward to playing here at home and to have the weather turn sour on us was unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. I think everybody is looking forward to this weekend knowing we can stay here and play on our home diamond and hopefully have some good attendance and play some good ball."
The Peewee AAA Knights are also excited to host provincials this weekend. The squad has had an up-and-down season, but has been focused all year on this weekend. Now they hope to make some noise at the event.
Brandon opens the tournament against Oil Dome on Friday at 11 a.m., before taking on South Central at 6:30 p.m.
Head coach Brent Battersby believes the key to his team’s success will lie in managing his pitchers.
"Pitch count plays such a big role in how your games are played," he said. "It seems to come down to pitching, and the further on into tournaments you get the more important the pitching becomes so that will be one of our biggest factors is our pitchers and how we manage our pitch count.
"We have quite a few guys who are pitching. We have seven or eight guys in our bullpen. We have some stronger ones and some intermediate ones. We’ll balance them throughout the games."
Two teams from each pool will advance to Sunday’s semifinals, and Battersby hopes the Knights can reach the competition’s final day.
"We would sure definitely like to advance on to westerns, but that’s up to the baseball gods," he said. "We just take things game by game. We’re expecting some good results. You always have your eye on the horizon. We’d like to move on for sure."