The Cranbrook Bandits only managed a single win on their home field this weekend, but all signs pointed to more success moving forward.
Playing alternating games against the Calgary Redbirds U18 squad on Saturday and Sunday, the Senior and Junior Bandits both showed signs of improvement. While the Senior ‘A’ squad lost 6-2 in their first game, they made a statement to end the weekend with an 11-0 five-inning shutout.
Head coach Paul Mrazek attributed the victory at Confederation Park to a strong defensive effort and a hot pitcher.
“Brandon Thorn did a helluva job on the mound,” Mrazek said. “He [threw] 52 pitches in five innings [and] had command of all three of his pitches. He pounded the zone, filled the plate and made these guys swing [while] our defence made [the necessary] plays.”
While errors costed them a win on Saturday, the coach was pleased with the way his team played throughout the entire weekend.
“[It] really [could have been] a 3-2 ballgame [on Saturday], if we had made a couple of plays,” he said. “We pitched well [and] had some scoring opportunities. [Before Sunday] we talked about our two-strike approach [and] we talked about our approach at the plate when we’ve got two out, that you can’t just be out there swinging big — you’ve got to swing for the situation, you’ve got to swing for the scoreboard.
“You’ve got to swing for the team and not for yourself.”
Mrazek believes that the ‘A’ Bandits have shown great progress only three weeks into their year and is now looking to use training time to increase his players confidence in pressure-packed moments.
“We’re really working hard on getting these guys comfortable in game situations,” he said. “So, we’re [starting to do] a lot of ground balls, fly balls, line drives in the outfield, base hits with guys running in practice at full speed.
“The biggest thing is these guys having the confidence and knowing that they can do it, that they can play with these guys. We tell them time and time again that when they play it right, they can play with anyone.”
The Junior ‘B’ team, meanwhile, lost both their games over the weekend falling 11-8 and then being routed 17-6 in the final outing. While both Senior and Junior teams practice together regularly, the home games were a rare opportunity for Mrazek to see the younger group in action.
“I saw a lot of good things from them, coach [Robin] King is doing a great job along with coach King Jr and coach Thorn,” he said. “The whole package this year is great. We practice as a team but we have three fields here, [so] we can break out after our group stuff and [have the] ability to separate and then come back together.”
Both teams have a brief break before starting their American Legion Montana conference season in mid-June. Next weekend, the Bandits host their second annual alumni game which pits the current ‘A’ squad against former members of the program.