First pitch flies at 18U AAA Western Canadian Championships Thursday

Some of the top under-18 baseball players from across Western Canada will hit the field at Great Chief Park this weekend.

Red Deer is set to host the 18UAAA Western Canadian Championships, with the opening game between the Midget AAA Braves and Northern Lights Baseball Academy of Grande Prairie. First pitch is set for Thursday at 7:30 p.m., with an opening ceremony taking place at 6 p.m.

“In December, we decided Red Deer Minor would host this event. It’s been no secret and it’s also been no secret that we wanted to do well at provincials,” said Braves head coach Randy Gehring, who was previously the president of Red Deer Minor Baseball.

“At the end of the day, we knew that we would be playing post provincials anyway. So it’s been our focus since day 1.”

The Braves will be looking for redemption on the weekend, after a disappointing showing at provincials earlier this month.

“It was a tough go at provincials so, not very often in life you get to push the reset button and try and do it over again. I’m hoping they put their best foot forward this weekend,” Gehring said.

“For a lot of them, it will be something they’ve never experienced before and something they may not experience again. You need to soak it in, have fun and enjoy themselves. Just try and let the play speak for itself.”

Although the top team from each of Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba will be at Nationals during the same period, Gehring still believes there will be an upper flight of talent at the tournament.

Along with the Braves and Northern Lights, the Saskatoon Cubs, North Delta Blue Jays and North Winnipeg Pirates will compete. One bright spot for Red Deer was competing against a few of those top teams earlier this year at a tournament in Kamloops.

While the Midget AAA Braves are hosting Westerns, the 13UAAA Braves and the 15UAAA are both heading out to compete in Western Canadian Championships across the province. For Gehring, that also serves as a strong sign of the growth of baseball in the region.

“Right from day 1, one of my goals this year was to make sure this program was left in good hands. I think if you look at the success of the mosquito, peewee and bantams,” Gehring noted.

“We kept quite a few first years this year with the idea being that those first and second years would stay next year and be joined by those strong bantam kids, who will be joined by the strong peewee kids. I think the midget AAA program in Red Deer is going to be a force to be reckoned with for a lot of years.”

The gold medal game for Westerns in Red Deer is set for Sunday at 5:30 p.m. For the full schedule and live results, check out the tournament website. (www.reddeerminorbaseball.com/content/westerns-schedule).



Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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