With only two returnees on the roster it would have been easy for Red Deer Servus Credit Union Braves head coach Dwayne Lalor to be worried about the bantam AAA baseball season.
But that was anything but the case.
“We have the two kids from AAA, but two years ago most of these kids played together in peewee and finished second in the province and went to the Western Canadians where we won a game, so I knew we had a solid group,” he said. “The only thing I didn’t know was if we’d have a shut down pitcher or how our overall hitting would be until some of the kids got used to the different level. But so far so good. We’ve played well and had some great hitting performances.
“We haven’t had a lot of strikeouts . . . we’re getting the barrel of the bat on the ball, which forces the opposition to make the plays. You do that and you’ll have success.”
The Braves showed some of their ability during the weekend at Great Chief Park, winning two of three starts against the Fort McMurray Oil Giants, winning 10-5 on Saturday and 10-2 on Sunday. They lost 7-5 in the second game Saturday.
The games were the start of the second round of the regular season.
“The first is a development round where you modify some of the baseball rules, while the second is strictly baseball rules, so you have to be smarter with your substitutions and moving people around,” explained Lalor, who is also the president of the Red Deer Minor Baseball Association.
Besides hitting the ball well the Braves have solid pitching and their defence has been good.
“It’s the bantam level and defence can be scary at times, but it can also be spectacular,” said Lalor, who grew up playing the game under some of the best coaching in the city and learned the fundamentals of the game as a youngster.
“We work on our fundamentals all the time and the kids learn to play different positions, which makes it exciting for them. Being fundamentally solid also helps the pitchers so they don’t have to be strike out machines. They learn the skills and are consistent which only helps us as we develop and it will show up as the year rolls along.”
Lalor knows the majority of the team and the fact the players know him will only help.
“Instead of a new voice telling them what to do, they know me which makes it easier. Plus I know them and what they can do. Also the kids like each other which also makes it easier on everyone.”
Infielder Kelsey Lalor and Ethan Ropcean, who plays centre field, short stop and pitches, are the only two remaining members of last year’s team.
Hayley Lalor, Austin Hammond and Zach Olson played peewee AAA last year while Andrew MacCuaig played peewee AA in Lacombe. Left-hander Kobe Scott moved in from Wainwright while Austin Kelts-Larsen, Brad Pope, Parker Booth, left-hander Griffin Moline, Jordan Muirhead and Carter O’Donnell played bantam AA.
Practically the entire roster can pitch with Muirhead, Moline, Ropcean, MacCuaig, Scott and O’Donnell seeing a lot of duty on the mound.
Del Booth and Shayne Olson are also coaches.
Moline started in the opener against the Giants Saturday and went four innings, allowing two runs on five hits, a walk and four strikeouts. Ropcean went the final three innings, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks.
Muirhead had a pair of singles, two stolen bases and scored three times while Scott had two singles and two RBIs, Hammond an RBI on two singles and Olson a single, double and two stolen bases. Olson also threw out a pair of runners.
The second game Saturday saw Pope start on the mound and allow three runs on two hits, four walks and fanned five over three innings. MacCuaig went three innings, allowing four runs on two hits, four walks and four strikeouts.
Olson had another strong game behind the plate throwing out three runners. He also had two hits, two stolen bases and an RBI. Kelsey Lalor added a triple.
On Sunday, Scott started on the hill and allowed two runs over three innings on four hits, three walks and a pair of hit batters. Hammond tossed the final three innings of two-hit ball while walking one and fanning four.
Hammond had two singles, two RBIs, two stolen bases and scored twice. Kelts-Larsen had a pair of hits and drove in two runs while Olson had a run-scoring triple, a walk and scored three times.