The Cranbrook Junior Bandits didn’t spend a lot of time with a lead on Saturday afternoon, but that didn’t stop them from playing like winners.
Facing an intimidating Glacier Twins ‘B’ side in a doubleheader at Confederation Park, the American Legion ‘B’ team played a scrappy style as they pulled out an upset win before barely falling in extra-innings in game two.
According to head coach Robin King, after having lost on the road to Glacier by scores of 22-9 and 20-11 just two weeks prior, the Bandits resilience was very encouraging.
“I had meetings before the game with [our] team captains [and] we talked about Glacier and Kalispell being the high bar this year in the league,” King said. “To see the boys battle back and never let Glacier get too far ahead, make some good defensive plays and [have] smart base running [was great].”
In their first game, Cranbrook had a slow start offensively and found themselves down 6-0 in the third inning. Cutting into the lead gradually, by the seventh and final inning, the Bandits were only down 10-8.
At a high-pressure moment with the bases loaded at the bottom of the inning, Fisher Nelson had a huge hit that scored three runners. Sliding into home, Brayden Farquar was greeted by a very excited bench who then collectively went to mob Nelson at third base.
“To come back and beat them in the bottom of the seventh was just a huge victory for us,” King said. “Mentally and physically to get the ‘W’ there was a great confidence booster.”
While the second game had a closer start, the Bandits once again found themselves playing catch up with a 4-2 deficit by the fifth inning. Tying it up quickly, however, thanks to a double from Michael Schieman that scored a pair, the team made it through the seventh inning tied.
Although the Twins scored three runs in the eighth and the Bandits couldn’t counter, it was nonetheless an impressive performance compared to their previous blowout at the hands of Glacier.
“To take them into extra innings was huge,” King said. “The big difference was errors. Bottomline, we hit the ball well when we were down there [but] we made more errors and then mentally on the base paths, we were much sharper with our game [this weekend].”
The Bandits continued their season on Monday afternoon with a pair of exhibition games against Spokane’s Ferris High School. They wrap up their season with another exhibition match against Team BC U15 next Monday, before heading for the West District Montana League tournament on Thursday.
“It seems like it’s been a long season, but then it’s [also] hard to believe that we have districts are just ten days away,” King said. “I think we’re ready [and] we’re peaking at the right time. The team’s starting to gel more and more every day. You can see it on and off the field [so] I’m excited.”
Cranbrook’s Junior team currently holds an 11-13 overall record and are 3-5 against fellow American Legion competition this summer. The District tournament will be held in Hamilton, Montana and features the Glacier Twins ‘B’ team and the Kalispell Lakers ‘B’ team among others.