It was a case of so close, yet so far for a pair of Westman teams at the provincial Bantam AAA baseball championship at Simplot Millenium Park on the weekend.
The Brandon Knights and Midwest both had a chance to make Sunday’s playoffs at the three-day event, but both ultimately came up short.
Midwest came into Saturday with a 2-0 record and knew one win would secure a berth in the semifinals, but the team gave up five runs in the seventh to fall 9-5 to Parkland. Midwest then fell 15-5 to the eventual champion Bonivital Blacksox.
Meanwhile, the Knights felt they had a chance to beat Midwest on Friday and then dropped a tight 5-3 decision to Red River before bowing out of the tournament with a 1-3 record after falling 12-1 to Bonivital. Had Brandon won one more game, it would have created a three-way tie with Midwest and Parkland (2-2), but instead Parkland earned a spot in the semifinals based on its win over Midwest.
Despite being so close, Knights head coach Grant Wilson was proud of what his team accomplished on the weekend.
"We did what we wanted to do," he said. "It just seemed like in key situations we didn’t get that hit that could score us a few extra runs to make that difference. Our pitching was great and our defence was real solid all weekend until that last game. Overall, we got the most out of our guys and we’re pleased with that."
Brady Perreault threw a complete-game seven hitter against Red River, while Dustin Rickets and Liam Nohr both went 1-for-3 with a run scored. Ben Plett’s two-run home run in the sixth stood up as the difference.
Perreault’s double against Bonivital was the Knights’ lone hit in that game. He came around to score the team’s run.
Westman’s other representative, Oil Dome, went 1-3 in the tournament and missed the playoffs. Its lone win was a 4-2 decision over North Winnipeg to close out the round robin.
In Sunday’s final, Victor Cerny went 3-for-4 and scored twice, while Trey Fortin was 2-for-4 with a run scored as Bonivital beat Winnipeg South 4-1. Duncan Mortimer earned the win for the Blacksox, who will represent Manitoba at nationals from Aug. 21-25 in Vaughan, Ont. Carson Campbell took the loss for the Chiefs, who advance to westerns from Aug. 15-17 in Swift Current, Sask.
While the Knights didn’t make it to the playoffs this year, there is potential for seven of the 11 players on the roster to return next season, and Wilson hopes their experience this year will pay off next summer.
"We felt that was the case when this group was together in peewee and last year in peewee we had a pretty good run," he said. "We’re hoping with this bantam group that we can get a core of our team back that has experienced this level of ball and add a few faces to the group and hopefully we’ll be able to compete again."
See Page B2 for coverage of the peewee championship.