The Red Deer Dairy Queen Braves could be a step behind before they even open the Western Canadian peewee AAA baseball championships Friday at Great Chief Park.
The Braves, and the Alberta champion Sherwood Park Athletics, have played all season in a league that doesn’t allow a pitcher to throw curve balls. The Western championships do however.
“It’s a bit of a disadvantage, but luckily we played in a tournament in Kelowna and they used curve balls, so it’s not completely strange to us,” said Braves head coach Cam Moon. “I know the B.C. teams use curves, but I’m not sure about Saskatchewan and Manitoba. But we can’t worry about that.”
While the Braves pitchers haven’t thrown a breaking ball during the season, that doesn’t mean they can’t.
“Some of them can, and have a good one,” said Moon. “The biggest thing could be control, but they’ll be fine.”
The Braves go into the championship as the host team, but they also finished second in the provincials.
“Obviously we wanted to win the province, but I believe it was important to go into the championship through the front door. We earned our way here and just didn’t get in because we were the host team,” said Moon. “The kids played hard at the provincials, in fact Sherwood Park had to beat us twice in the final to win.
“The best thing was the kids didn’t let up and are coming into the Westerns playing well.”
The championships are something the Braves have looked forward to all season, especially being at home.
“It’s a real thrill playing at home and at Great Chief Park,” said Moon.
The Braves open the championship Friday at 9 a.m. on diamond 2 against the Saskatchewan champion Saskatoon Cardinals and meet the Brandon Knights in the feature game of the day at 6:15 p.m. on diamond 1. They finish pool play Saturday at 12:15 p.m. on diamond 1 against the Cloverdale, B.C., Spurs.
“The only team we know anything about is Saskatoon, who played a couple of teams in our league,” said Moon. “They’re big and play solid baseball, but that’s to be expected at this level. We have the top eight teams in the west here, so there won’t be any easy game. The thing is we can’t worry about what the other teams do, we have to make sure we’re playing our best. That’s all we can ask.”
The Braves have added only one player — pitcher Aaron Larose of St. Albert — to their roster.
“He’s a big kid, who can throw hard and can play anywhere we ask,” said Moon, who had a roster of 12.
The Braves have depth in all areas, including pitching with Larose joining Blake Thompson, Niklas Fischer, Brett Barrett, Allan Pruss and Levi Moon as the team’s leading pitchers.
“You need depth in this type of tournament, especially with a pitch count,” said Moon. “We feel we have the arms to go deep in the tournament. Our goal is to get to the semifinals Sunday and then you’ll need that depth for sure.”
Offensively Joel Mazurkewich, Moon and Brendan Baker have been the team leaders while Fischer leads in home runs.
Other members of the team are Zane Steeves, Michael Pruss, Justin Van Tetering and Mitchell James.
The other pool has the Athletics, Regina White Sox, North Winnipeg Pirates and the Vancouver Yankees.
The top two teams, following pool play, advance to the semifinals Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The final is set for 4 p.m.
If a tiebreaker is necessary following pool play it goes Saturday at 3:15 p.m. The placement games are also set for Saturday. If their’s a tiebreaker the third-place teams in each pool meet at 6 p.m. on diamond 2 and the fourth-place teams clash at 6:15 p.m. on diamond 1. If there’s no tiebreaker needed both placement games go at 4 p.m.
• Robert Thomson and Blair Steeves are assistant coaches with the Braves and Ed Mazurkewich the Chef de Mission.