The Red Deer Dairy Queens Braves head into the provincial peewee AAA baseball championships at Great Chief Park this weekend feeling pretty good about themselves.
The Braves, who finished third in the league, won eight of their last 10 starts.
“We started a bit slow this year, losing several games in May, but we finished strong,” said Braves head coach Kelly Jones, whose squad finished back of Sherwood Park and St. Albert.
The Braves are deep on the mound and Jones credited the team’s steady improvement at the plate for their better showing late in the season.
“Out hitting came around and everyone on the team is contributing,” he said. “But one of the major reasons for our improvement was that we came together as a team.”
The Braves have four players back from last year with seven moving up from peewee AA and one from mosquito.
The team’s pitching is their strength as they can go six deep when it comes to starters with Cooper Jones, Hunter Leslie, Ben LeBlanc, Adam Junck, Zach Baker and Ty Moline. If the Braves reach the final they’ll need five starters.
The Braves compete in a pool with St. Albert, Calgary and Edmonton while Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove, Fort McMurray and East Central are in the other pool.
The Braves see their first action Friday at 7 p.m. against Edmonton while they clash with Calgary at 9 a.m. Saturday and St. Albert at 6 p.m.
Also on Friday East Central takes on Spruce Grove at 9 a.m., Calgary meets St. Albert at noon and Fort McMurray faces Sherwood Park at 3 p.m. On Saturday, Edmonton meets St. Albert at noon and Calgary at 3 p.m. on diamond 1 while on diamond II Spruce Grove takes on Fort McMurray at 9 a.m., East Central faces Sherwood Park at noon and Fort McMurray at 3 p.m. and Spruce Grove clashes with Sherwood Park at 6 p.m.
Top two teams in each pool advance to Sunday’s semifinals, unless there’s a three-way tie for first then tiebreakers come into affect. The final goes at 3 p.m., unless there’s a bronze medal game, then it goes at 6 p.m.
If a team reaches the final and is playing their third game of the day the final goes Monday at noon.
“We’re fairly similar to St. Albert and Calgary and Edmonton can be tough, depending on who they have pitching,” said Jones.
Two members of the Red Deer squad — Jones and Leslie — have been selected to compete for Team Canada at the Cal Ripken World Series in Aberdeen, MD, Aug. 9-18.
“The team was put together by a group based out of Okotoks and Calgary,” explained Kelly Jones. “They scouted players from across Alberta and Saskatchewan before making their selections.”
The Canadian team is usually based in B.C., or Ontario, but this year they didn’t put together teams, leaving the Alberta squad to represent the country.
There will be teams from Japan, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, South Korea and Australia along with a number of teams from United States.
Great Chief Park will also host the bantam AAA Tier II provincials this weekend, including the Red Deer Servus Credit Union Braves, the Okotoks Dawgs Red, Fort McMurray and Calgary.
The tournament opens at 3 p.m. Friday on baseball diamond II with the Braves facing Fort McMurray, Okotoks and Calgary clash at 6:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Calgary and Red Deer meet at 9 a.m., Fort McMurray takes on Okotoks at noon and Calgary at 3 p.m. while Red Deer and Okotoks clash at 6 p.m.
If no tiebreakers are needed the final goes at noon Sunday. If one team is undefeated they have to be defeated twice.
If three teams tie for first the semifinal is at 10 a.m. and the final at 2 p.m.
If two teams are tied for second they meet at 9 a.m. with the final at 1 p.m.