The Red Deer Dairy Queen Braves didn’t make the provincial peewee AAA baseball final, but they left the five-team tournament with their heads held high.
After losing their opening two games Friday the Braves stormed back to beat St. Albert 13-3 Saturday and Edmonton 14-12 Sunday to finish at 2-2 and in a tie with Spruce Grove for second. Spruce Grove, who were 2-0 on Friday, lost 14-4 to Sherwood Park on Saturday and 10-9 to Edmonton Sunday.
However, the Braves were knocked out of the final thanks to a 24-14 loss to Spruce Grove in pool action.
But head coach Dwayne Lalor was pleased with his troops.
“We finished higher in the tournament than we did during the regular season . . . it was a improvement,” he said. “It was nice to see we played a solid game on Saturday after losing the opening two games. Today (Sunday) we took a little longer to win than I thought we would, but we finished the way we needed to finish the game. We made some big strides during the year, but we just couldn’t put it together for a three day stretch.”
The Braves hurt themselves with to many physical and mental errors.
“To beat a championship team you need to make the plays every day, all day,” added Lalor. “That was something we weren’t capable of doing. We tried hard and did some things we were supposed to do, but we needed to be more consistent.”
The Braves got solid pitching against St. Albert with Cooper Jones going five innings, allowing three runs on six hits and one walk. Canon Whitbread tossed one inning of hitless, scoreless ball to wrap it up.
Jones also finished with a double, two singles and a pair of RBIs while Brady Steeves had two singles, a double, triple, an RBI and scored twice.
Haley Lalor had a pair of singles and Hunter Leslie two singles, an RBI and scored three times.
Steeves started on the mound against Edmonton, allowing five runs on eight hits over three innings while Leslie gave up seven runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings.
Zach Olson came on to retire the final two batters in the seventh to record the save.
Austin Hammond crashed his third home run of the tournament, a two-run shot, while also adding two singles and a double. Jared Lower had three singles, two RBIs and scored three times while Lalor had a single and a double and Austin Sorokan two singles.
“It was a good weekend as some of the kids hit better than they have all season,” said Dwayne Lalor.
The Braves had only four players returning next season in Zach Baker, Jones, Ben LeBlanc and Leslie.
“Most of the kids move up to bantam, but if the four return there should be a good crop of kids moving up,” said Lalor. “The key is to keep them all playing.”
At the end of Sunday’s game Lalor had all eight graduating players on the field.
“I felt it was an important for them to be out there and a nice send off to go out on a winning note.”
Sherwood Park, who went through the tournament undefeated after beating Spruce Grove and Edmonton 20-4 on Saturday, needed two games to dispose of Spruce Grove in the final Sunday.
Spruce Grove forced a second game with a 10-7 win, but Sherwood Park came back to take the title with a 10-3 victory.