Conference play opens this weekend for Junior Bandits

Cranbrook 'B' baseball team play first American Legion Montana League game on Sunday in Libby

A busy weekend lies ahead for the Cranbrook Junior ‘B’ Bandits, as they play four road games in the West Kootenays and the United States.

On Saturday, the team has an exhibition doubleheader in Trail against their local squad, before the Bandits open their regular season on Sunday with a pair of games against the Libby Loggers ‘B’ team in Montana.

“[We’re playing at] Butler Field [on Saturday] which is supposed to be a really nice diamond and we’re playing under the lights, so I’m sure the kids will get excited about that,” said head coach Robin King. “We’ve had a great week of practice and upped the tempo with the boys [to] put them in a lot of game-like situations to try and build their confidence. So, I’m really excited to see how that has worked out.”

Last weekend, in a pair of exhibition outings at home against the Calgary Redbirds, the Junior Bandits lost twice with an 11-8 defeat followed by a 17-6 beatdown.

“We ended up having individual meetings with all the players after that [because] those kinds of mistakes that we made were mental mistakes,” King explained. “They transpire into physical mistakes, but lack of communication really hurt us.

“We did some dry exercises [this week] where we just moved and ran routes, worked on our cut-offs so that we’re more familiar with each other and who has what kind of responsibilities.”

In order to be successful, King said that he wants his team to hit the ball hard and to the ground and avoid attempts at long bombs.

“It was a good and bad weekend,” he said. “We learned a lot from it [and] I was really proud of our guys [when] they did battle back. We hit the ball quite well [but] the second game we started popping up a little bit more than I like. We try to be a line drive and ground ball team.”

While Sunday will be the team’s first American Legion Montana League action of the season, their opponent will be familiar as they have already met Libby twice at home in exhibition play. While the Bandits won both of those games, King knows that they can’t take anything for granted.

“They were close games and [Libby] is a very solid club,” he said. “We were fortunate to come out on the winning end of those [games] because we played solid defence, and that’s what I expect from our guys this weekend.

“We worked hard on that and went back to the drawing board and worked on the technical aspect early in the week. I think we’re going to be ready.”

Following this weekend, the Junior Bandits have a busy conference schedule coming up with Kalispell, Glacier and Bitterroot all on the docket for upcoming road trips. King said that his team is excited to get into the meat of the season.

“We’re excited about it. The meetings that I had with the guys this week showed that they’re anxious to play good ball,” the coach said. “I said right off the get-go to the guys [that] every opportunity is a learning opportunity. They’re learning about me, I’m learning about them and I’m learning about the league and the approach we need to take. Now we get to get into it.”

While the ‘B’ team is on the road, the Senior ‘A’ squad are hosting an alumni game on Saturday afternoon at Confederation Park, before starting their own season in mid-June.

Cranbrook Townsman

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