Although the Brandon Knights were mostly made up of major-aged players, only two had played at the Peewee AAA level prior to this season, which meant the team learned a lot of lessons at the provincial championship at Simplot Millennium Park on the weekend.
Brandon’s pitchers struggled more than head coach Brent Battersby hoped, and it cost the Knights as they went 0-4 in the three-day event that wrapped up on Sunday. Brandon came close to getting a win on Saturday — they gave up three wins in the seventh to fall 5-4 to Winnipeg South — but Battersby feels that the weekend will pay dividends down the road for the players.
"It was substantial to play these calibre of teams like this on a weekend of this," he said. "The boys will take this experience and carry it over. Even the majors will take it into bantam when they go. We only had two returning AAA players out of our majors, so we were kind of a rookie squad.
"The way they played, they played really well. We took a couple pretty hard on the chin, but we had a couple of really close games. We had one that we lost in the bottom of the seventh inning, so you can’t expect anything better than that, other than a win."
Dylan Halliday was 3-for-4 with a triple and two runs scored in the one-run loss. Carter Loewen went 1-for-3 with a run scored in Brandon’s 15-5 loss to Bonivital to close out the event.
The other Westman teams didn’t fare much better with Oil Dome and Midwest both going 1-3 and missing the playoffs.
The Pembina Hills Padres, however, broke that trend. The team — which includes Bryden Biehn, Zaine McConnell and Dez Ramsey from Carberry as well as Trent Peters from Clearwater — went undefeated through the preliminary round before topping South Winnipeg 10-0 in the semifinals and South Central 8-3 in the final.
Matt Boychuk gave up two hits, no runs and struck 12 in 5 2/3 innings of work on the mound for the Padres in the final. He also singled twice and scored one of Pembina Hills’ five runs in the first inning.
The Padre bats were on fire all weekend as the team scored 87 runs in its six games, and head coach Blaine Boyle was extremely proud of his squad.
"It’s a little overwhelming," he said. "I’ve coached hockey for over 30 years and won a national championship in the States, and I think this feels better. They’re great kids and they just never quit. They practise hard. They phone me to go hit the ball all the time and they just love to play. We’re pretty excited for them. I’m excited myself, too."
Peters scored one run for Pembina Hills in the final, while Ben McCartney and Max Neill both crossed home plate twice. Lucas Fehr took the loss for South Central.
Pembina Hills, South Central and North Winnipeg all advance to the western championship, which will be held from Aug. 14-18 in Altona. North Winnipeg beat Winnipeg South 8-3 in a qualifying game, which was needed as South Central already had a berth at westerns as the host squad.