Young players take the next step

In terms of experience at the peewee AAA level, this year’s edition of the Red Deer Dairy Queen Braves comes up short.

In terms of experience at the peewee AAA level, this year’s edition of the Red Deer Dairy Queen Braves comes up short.

In fact the Braves don’t have one player back from last year’s squad, which hosted the provincials and finished third in their pool with a 1-2 record.

But don’t feel sorry for head coach Chuck Blackburn and the Braves. The majority of the team were together two years ago when the mosquito AA Braves reached the provincial final before losing to St Albert.

“This is obviously a step up, but the fact most of the kids know each other and have played together is important,” said Blackburn, who was a coach with the mosquito team.

“I normally would like to have one to four players back, but that’s the way it is and we’ll be fine.”

Blackburn has put together an impressive coaching staff this year, something he believes will be a strength of the team.

“The majority of the coaches have worked together which is important as well,” said Blackburn. “We have a great staff and guys who know the game and have experience working in different areas.”

Randy Gehring, Todd Jansen, Paul Claerhout and Charlie Jorgensen are assistant coaches. Claerhout and Jorgensen were with Blackburn last season with the mosquito AA team while Gehring and Jansen were with Blackburn two years ago.

“It’s important to have the expertise on the coaching staff, so they’re comfortable coaching different aspects of the game and the kids learn that much quicker,” added Blackburn, who has nine players off last year’s peewee AA program and three others — Kolbe Blackburn, Carter Claerhout and Mason Jorgensen — up from mosquito AAA.

The remainder of the team consists of Mason Love Hollman, Kolby Clark, Zack Jansen, Joshua Zinger, Jared Arnold, Ryan Berglund, Aiden Gehring, Branden Woods and Will Cebuliak.

Blackburn likes the fact most of the player had a year of peewee AA under their belts.

“It’s a big jump from mosquito to peewee in terms of the distances and the fact runners can now lead off, and there are pick offs. The year of experience at AA makes a world of difference. The kids moving directly up from mosquito have a lot to learn and quickly but for the most part they’re top players who do learn quickly.”

The Braves have been hot offensively for the most part this season.

“We knew we had good hitters, but we got out of the gates faster than we expected,” said Blackburn. “The guys have been selective at the plate and everyone was hitting the ball hard. But it will only get tougher as we go along.”

The Braves did lose three straight games to the St. Albert Cardinals and at time of writing, they have a 5-4 record this season.

“The St. Albert team is the virtually the same team we lost to two years ago, so they’ll be tough. We have a little rivalry going with them.”

Team pitching is something they will need to continue to work on, according to Blackburn.

“The kids have a lot to learn,” he stressed. “When they’re younger they work on just throwing strikes, now they need to work on hitting their spots. They need to change speeds, in other words learn the art of pitching a bit.”

The team doesn’t have an ace, although left-hander Woods was one of the top pitchers at the peewee AA level last year.

“He’s had a good start,” said Blackburn, who will eventually find five starters.

“We’ll take the five strongest and see how they perform,” he said. “Everyone else will work in relief. We have 11 of the 12 guys pitching, and even Jansen, who is our regular centre-fielder, has thrown some and didn’t look out of place.”

Defence also needs to be a strong part of the team if they hope to make a run at a provincial title.

“We definitely need strong fundamentals,” Blackburn added. “And we have the coaches in place to work on that.”

Blackburn also believes in each player finding their strongest position and concentrating on that.

“To have success on defence it’s important they feel comfortable at a specific position.”

drode@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta recorded a single-day record of over 57,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered. (Photo courtesy Alberta Health Services Twitter)
Alberta hits daily record of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered

Central zone has administered 111,735 doses of the COVID-19

Alberta reported an additional 1,980 cases of COVID-19 Friday. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer adds 37th death from COVID-19, active cases drop

Alberta Health identified an additional 1,980 cases of the virus province-wide

Kris Sturgess with Calgary Ghostbusters. (Photo from GoFundMe)
GoFundMe account salutes Red Deer prop builder

Kris Sturgess died unexpectedly April 28

A rodeo south of Bowden drew a huge crowd on May 1 and 2, 2021. (Photo courtesy Mom’s Diner’s Facebook page)
FILE - A firefighter wears a mask as he drives his truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward, File
VIDEO: Flames rip through Edmonton-area seniors complex, but no fatalities

ST. ALBERT, Alta. — Fire has destroyed part of a retirement complex… Continue reading

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas talks with his players during a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg soccer match against Mexico's Cruz Azul at Azteca stadium in Mexico City, Tuesday, May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Fernando Llano
Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Toronto FC coach Chris Armas returns to Red Bull Arena to face former team

Gymnastics Canada skipping Olympic qualifier because of COVID-19 concerns

Gymnastics Canada skipping Olympic qualifier because of COVID-19 concerns

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships, in Montreal, Thursday, July 25, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
After pregnancy, injuries and a pandemic, Bishop-Nriagu finally hitting her stride

After pregnancy, injuries and a pandemic, Bishop-Nriagu finally hitting her stride

Lille's Burak Yilmaz, center, reacts with teammates after scoring during their French League One soccer match between Lille and Nice in Villeneuve d'Ascq, northern France, Saturday May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Spingler)
Canada’s Jonathan David scores milestone goal as Lille moves 4 points ahead of PSG

Canada’s Jonathan David scores milestone goal as Lille moves 4 points ahead of PSG

Jean Carlo Salas of Costa Rica vies for the ball with Canada's Ian Bennett (right) during a CONCACAF Futsal Championship in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CONCACAF-Norvin Mendoza MANDATORY CREDIT
Canada denied a trip to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in penalty shootout loss to Panama

Canada denied a trip to the FIFA Futsal World Cup in penalty shootout loss to Panama

Canadian Stephen Ames one shot back of leaders at Regions Tradition

Canadian Stephen Ames one shot back of leaders at Regions Tradition

Team Canada skip Kerri Einarson leaves the ice after defeating China at the Women's World Curling Championship in Calgary, Alta., Friday, May 7, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canada’s Einarson beats China 6-4, qualifies for playoffs at world curling playdowns

Canada’s Einarson beats China 6-4, qualifies for playoffs at world curling playdowns

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks to a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. A broad coalition of MPs from all five parties wants the federal government to support waiving the global rules that guard vaccine trade secrets. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

As MPs urge support, Trudeau demurs on whether government backs COVID-19 waiver

Most Read