The Red Deer Carstar Braves are as ready as they’ll ever be for the Western Canadian midget AAA baseball championships, which open Thursday in Saskatoon.
That wasn’t the case a weeks ago.
“After the provincials we gave the guys a week off then when they returned it was tough to motivate them,” said Braves head coach Rick Czainski.
“The guys really believed they were going to win the (provincial) final and when they didn’t it was tough to get back up.”
The Braves dropped a 4-1 decision to the Edmonton Cardinals in the provincial championship, Aug. 1.
“But slowly our bats have come around, as have our arms and we’re ready (for the Westerns) and we’re looking to come home with a medal,” said Czainski.
The Braves have played four exhibition games of late, including a fun contest against a shorthanded Red Deer Riggers team Tuesday at Great Chief Park. The Braves won 3-2 in seven innings.
“It was good of them to give us a game, so we got everyone in and the guys who didn’t pitch last weekend did tonight, which was good heading into this this weekend,” said Czainski.
The Braves played the Central Alberta Zone 4 team last Friday and met the Calgary Blues in a doubleheader on Sunday.
The Braves will open the Western Canadian championship at 9 a.m. Friday against Victoria.
“We watched them play in Kamloops, but didn’t get a chance to play them,” said Czainski.
“They played a couple of other teams from our league and they split, so I’d say we’re about equal to them. But we’ll also get their top pitcher, so it will be a battle right off the hop.”
The Braves will counter with ace right-hander Scott Trapp.
The Braves face the host Saskatoon team at 5 p.m. Friday before clashing with Team Saskatchewan, which is also from Saskatoon at 9 a.m. Saturday and Manitoba at 3 p.m.
The top two teams following the round-robin clash in the final Sunday at 11 a.m. If one team is undefeated they have to be beaten twice.
The last time Czainski competed in the Western finals, was in bantam AAA, and they came home with a silver.
The Braves will be a bit shorthanded for the tournament as Blair Mulder will be attending an Alberta Junior Hockey League camp in Fort McMurray.
“He’s a big loss,” said Czainski. “He has a lot of big hits this season and outside of a couple of games early on he’s been a stud on the mound.”
Czainski did add utility infielder and relief pitcher Jason Tripp of Sherwood Park to the roster.
“Jason will give us a little more depth to come in off the bench,” added Czainski, who wasn’t going to pick up a lot of players.
“We’ve played most of the season with 10 or 11 guys, because of injuries, so we’re used to it,” he said.
“Plus these guys got us here and will be rewarded for it.
“It’s a great group, who played as a team. The second half of the season the coaching staff didn’t have to coach them.
“We did work on motivation, but at the provincials the guys came and were all business. I’m sure that will be the case this weekend.”
l The Riggers, who are missing several players who have returned to college in the States, will meet the Fort Saskatchewan Athletics tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Great Chief Park in the third game of the best-of-three Sunburst Baseball League final . . . Riggers leave Tuesday for the Canadian senior AAA championships in Dartmouth, N.S.