Peewees play ball for nationals
St. Albert Cardinals host peewee AAA Tier I provincials this weekend at Legion Memorial Park
Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014 06:00 am
At the peewee AAA Tier I provincials this weekend every team is on an even playing field, including the No. 1-ranked St. Albert Cardinals as the tournament hosts.
“There is a lot of good teams in this tournament and the competition is going to be high. The big thing is everyone goes in with the same record,” said Mark Brisson, head coach of the 31-7 Cardinals. “If we focus on our skills and development we’ve had throughout the season and just apply it for those games I think we’ll have a good weekend but you never know going into provincials.”
The top eight teams in the provincial seeding round, led by the first-place 18-3 Cardinals, will compete for the right to represent Alberta at the Aug. 22 to 26 nationals in London, Ont.
The runner-up has a date at the Aug. 15 to 18 westerns in Altona, Man.
“I know a lot of folks have their eye on that national prize but we have a lot of work to do to get there,” Brisson said. “We’ve really focused on making sure that we focus on our at-bat, focus on our inning and focus on the play we’re making and don’t think too far ahead. If you think too far ahead you’re going to forget about those steps that you made to get there so we’ve really been preaching that.”
The players have embraced the challenge with open arms.
“Heading into provincials at the top of the league means we’ve got a target on our backs,” said pitcher/shortstop Mike Brisson. “We’ve done well this year when we’ve had pressure. When we weren’t first in the league we’ve battled from being a mediocre team to get to the top. We’ve just got to keep playing hard and keep battling and then we’ll be good.”
The last provincial hurrah for the Cardinals was 2006.
“These are young kids so there is going to be a little bit of nerves but they’ll play their way through it,” said coach Brisson. “If they focus on baseball they will be successful.”
In tournament play the Cardinals won the St. Albert Early Bird and the Red Deer Summer Slam and placed third at the Doc Plotsky in Sherwood Park.
“We’ve had some tournaments where we’ve had some really interesting competition,” said coach Brisson. “We’ve also had a lot of close games during the season and we’ve really went with the principle of bend but don’t break. We’ve been in plenty of games where we’ve been down 5-0, 6-1 and we’ve come back in those games to win them and that’s built momentum as well throughout the season.”
In pool A at provincials the Cardinals play the Red Deer Braves (12-14) Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday against the Sherwood Park Athletics (5-13) at noon and the Okotoks Dawgs (10-10) at 7 p.m.
The opening ceremonies are 6 p.m. Saturday.
Sunday, if there are no tiebreakers, the top two teams in both pools meet in the 9 a.m. and noon crossover semifinals. The final is 3 p.m.
The No. 2-ranked Spruce Grove White Sox (15-6), Calgary Cubs (12-8), South Jasper Place Jays (7-14) and Fort McMurray (6-15) form pool B.
“It’s a strong league this year. All the teams are really good competition. Calgary (ranked No. 3) is near the top and we’ve struggled a bit with them. Some of our losses have been to them,” said Brisson, the 2012 Baseball Alberta mosquito AA player of the year. “We’ve just got to concentrate on every game, every at-bat and every play we’ve got to make.”
The Cardinals hope to rule the roost with provincials in their backyard.
“It will help us because this is a bigger diamond and it’s in great shape. They’ve been doing a good job with it,” said coach Brisson. “We’ve been playing on some smaller diamonds where a fly ball gets hit out. Here you’re going to have to play good defence and hit the ball hard. There won’t be any easy fly ball home runs here.”
Brisson, 12, can’t wait to perform in front of the hometown crowd with a provincial title and a trip to nationals on the line.
“It’s going to be nice playing in front of our fans on our diamond,” said the Grade 8 Vincent J. Maloney student. “We also know the diamond really well. We know the bounces.”
The Cardinals are comprised of four returning players, one first-year peewee and the rest of the players spent last year in peewee AA.
“We have good experience and a good mix of different skills and talents, which has contributed to our success as well,” said coach Brisson.
The Cardinals also have a knack at doing the little things right.
“We’ve really focused on fielding ground balls, charging balls, getting good reads off fly balls in the outfield, hitting and playing good defence and that has helped us all year. Our pitching hasn’t been a problem at all either. It’s always been good,” said Brisson, a second-year peewee and the youngest of four ball-playing brothers who is arguably the best of the bunch.