Junior Cardinals ready to soar at provincials

The distinction between the elite teams and the also-rans is rarely as clear as it was during the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League's just-completed regular season.

Five teams – the Langley Junior Blaze, North Shore Junior Twins, North Delta Junior Blue Jays, Abbotsford Junior Cardinals and Victoria Junior Mariners – finished at last 14 games over .500. Everyone else in the league finished below the break-even mark.

So heading into the eight-team BCJPBL championship in Victoria this weekend, it appears to be a five-horse race for the title.

"The top five, anybody can beat anybody," said Abby coach Shawn Besse. "Especially going into a weekend tournament, it's all about who gets hot at the right time."

The Junior Cards (29-15) boast great pitching depth – always crucial in a compressed tourney schedule – led by Hunter Cunningham and Josh Froese who posted nine and eight wins, respectively. Key offensive cogs included Trevor Wilford (second in the BCJPBL in batting average at .420) and Jeremi Longpre (whose three home runs tied for tops in the league).

Besse's squad has further reason for optimism as pitcher/first baseman Carter Loewen, who missed the vast majority of the season with a back injury, could return to the lineup this weekend.

"If our batting is strong and comes through, we'll do fine," said Besse, whose team is in a pool with Langley, Victoria and the Whalley Junior Chiefs and needs to finish top-two to advance to the semifinals. "Our pitching and defence are great.

"It's been a really fun year, and I've liked the work ethic that everyone's brought. It wasn't two or three kids that carried the team, it was all 16 contributing at some point. It's made for a fun year, an exciting year.

"It all comes down to one weekend now."

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