The Innisfail Indians proved size matters little in the Baseball Alberta Peewee AA Provincial Championships at Great Chief Park on Sunday.
The Indians knocked off several other teams from bigger centres, eventually beating the Barrhead Orioles — another small centre — 9-2 in the final.
“This is a huge experience for the kids, especially coming from a smaller association like we are,” said Innisfail head coach Kent Baumgardt. “Last year a good majority of the boys played A ball last year and now they jump up into AA, a much tougher level of ball … and our boys stepped up to that challenge. They showed they could move through those challenges and persevere.”
The Indians rode strong starting pitching to the title, including five innings from Tanner Halerewich in the final.
Halerewich gave up two runs, one earned, while striking out six and walking one, picking up the game MVP award for his efforts. Teagan McCollough pitched the final two innings, giving up one unearned run on two hits and one walk.
Ethan Alvarez led Innisfail with three hits, two runs batted in and two runs scored, Jess Money and Cleary Simpson both had two hits and two runs, Lance Clay had one hit, an RBI and a run, Rees DeRuyter had a walk a hit and two runs scores and Kyle Baumgardt had one hit and three RBI.
“Teamwork was the key for us,” said Baumgardt.
“We had excellent starting pitching, the boys that started each game, pitched very well for us … they went deep into the game and when we asked our relief pitchers to come in, they did their job for us as well.
“On the offensive side of the game, we never got down. We just stayed even through the whole tournament.”
The Orioles did not have a smooth run to the final, they were mercied in the round robin by Barrhead but turned things around in time for the championship game.
“The boys never really got down in that game at all and we came back the next day and went about business,” said Baumgardt.
The host Red Deer Braves did not have the same kind of success, but managed to finish strong.
They opened with an 11-1 loss to the Indians, bounced back to beat the South Jasper Place Jays out of Edmonton 13-6 but then lost a decisive 7-6 game to the Barrhead Orioles on Saturday.
They appeared to be heading to a similar fate in their final game on Sunday afternoon, trailing the Leduc Giants 11-9 heading into the top of the seventh inning. But with two outs, they started to rally and scored eight runs, eventually winning 17-14.
Kade Kahlert led the way going 5-for-5 with five runs and four RBI, Jamie Lalor was 2-for-4 with two RBI and three runs, Reid Howell was 3-for-5 with two runs and two RBI, Piercen Differenz was 2-for-3 with two Runs and one RBI, and John Nicholson was 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Craig Bradley picked up the win in two innings of relief, allowing five runs, two earned, on three hits and one walk with one strike out.
“I know it’s 2-2 but we really feel like after that first game our kids really came to play and they played three fantastic games,” said Braves head coach Kathy Lalor. “We know we can hit, and the kids really just started to get some confidence in the last two or three weeks and that really showed today.”
Baumgardt praised those running the tournament.
“It was ran exceptionally well. I thought the Red Deer team did a very good job, things ran very smoothly, they always had answers for everybody,” he said.