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Peewee Chuckers making great strides
League play may be winding down for the Richmond City Chuckers, but the summer is only starting to heat up for the Peewee AAA team.
Managed by veteran skipper Scott Lunny, who grew up playing ball in the city, the under-13 side sports an 8-1 league record (13-4 overall) heading into this weekend’s final series of games wrapping up Sunday at Brighouse Park. And while Lunny isn’t making any bold predictions, he does like his team’s chance of contending for the B.C. banner at the provincial championship, to be played over the August long weekend in Cloverdale. But, he stresses, Richmond will be one of as many as 14—the number of teams in the tournament—that could win it all.
“Any team has a realistic chance just by getting in,” said Lunny. “Last year, Nanaimo—which improved throughout the season—made it as a wildcard and made it all the way to Sunday’s semifinals.”
Richmond’s Peewee AA team is proving to be no slouch either, and could also make it to the B.C. championship, said Lunny.
Both teams are coming off second-place finishes at the Valley of Champions tournament last weekend in the Okanagan. The scorching heat, coupled with quality opponents, served as a good test for both teams’ perseverance.
Playing in Kelowna, the Peewee AAAs reached the final with a 5-0 record before bowing to league-rival Abbotsford 6-4.
Richmond, which defeated White Rock, Victoria, Rutland and Red Deer in pool play and Coquitlam by a 20-7 count in the semis, displayed hot bats throughout the tournament, scoring 80 runs in the first five games while giving up only 18. But the final game against Abbotsford was a lot closer, thanks to the quality pitching of both teams. The Chuckers had the bases loaded with two out in the seventh and last inning but were unable to cash in.
The Chuckers gained a measure of revenge against Abbotsford Wednesday, winning a league game between the two teams 6-5 in Richmond.
The AAs, meanwhile, played in Penticton where they defeated the host team, Nanaimo and Jasper and lost to Duncan in round-robin play, and then lost 11-1 to the Duncan squad—sporting particularly strong pitching—in the final. Richmond was paced by its strong defensive play.
Lunny said he is pleased with the overall program at the Peewee level in Richmond, and believes the deep pool of talented players are making strong, steady progress.
“We’ve also got a strong group of players coming up, and we want to continue to see lots of kids playing baseball in the future at the Bantam, Midget and Junior levels,” he said.
Lunny said having as many kids as possible experience playing at the highest level possible can only help them going forward—whether they’re playing solely for the love of the game or hoping to make it to the Major Leagues.
“The kids want to play at the highest level, especially when they see the older kids playing there,” he said. “And we want to instill pride in the (Richmond City Baseball) association. I think there are enough talented athletes to make Richmond one of the best in the province. I know my son, who plays Bantam AAA, looks up to a guy like (Richmond City Baseball graduate) Ryan Pidhaichuk (who is playing at the University of Kansas). He came out to a couple of practices recently and has shown what the kids can aspire to.”
Lunny is also proud of Richmond’s focus on developing fundamentals, helping every player to go forward with confidence no matter what team they play on.
“One of our goals has been to get the players to a point where they know basic baseball and are comfortable even on a select team and they’re not having to re-learn things or tear down what they’ve learned,” he said.
“That’s been a key to the AAA Chuckers’ success. Everybody knows their roles and everyone is a good fit. Of our 12 players, we probably have nine who pitching in a rotation. But just as important as pitching is good defence and scoring when you get the opportunity. We’ve been fortunate to have all those.”