The Clive Coyotes Midget Tier 1 AA team has returned from the Western Canada Baseball Championships with a respectable third place finish.
Coach Stacey Bell said that by winning provincials to qualify for westerns, the team had already reached the goal it had set out at the beginning of the season and anything else was just a bonus.
“Westerns was just icing on the cake,” said Bell.
Manager Denny Pannenbecker said the team actually finished with two wins and two losses in a tie for second place but lost out in a tiebreaker to decide which team would play in the final game against Manitoba.
He added that, had the Coyotes placed in the final, he thought they would have stood a fair chance of taking the Western Championship title.
While the Coyotes were a bit disappointed they did not make it to the final, Pannenbecker said once they got over that they were pleased with their performance, both at westerns and provincials beforehand.
“Winning provincials in Alberta is a big accomplishment,” said Pannenbecker. “And then to finish third in Western Canada is, I think a very big deal. So the boys were happy with what they were able to accomplish this season.”
It certainly was a performance to be proud of. Pannenbecker said the team had three games with spectacular pitching performances, one of which they only lost by one run.
Bell said that, while pitching was excellent, the team’s hitting was a bit below average. However, Bell said this was because the caliber of pitching was higher at the Western Championships.
It was only the fourth game where pitching was a bit below par, said Pannenbecker.
He added this contributed to a downward trend that lost the Coyotes the game. However, Pannenbecker also said it probably wouldn’t have made much difference had the Coyotes pitching been on form in that game as their Manitoba opponents,
“Threw probably the best pitcher we have seen all year” against them.
Pannenbecker said that all of the teams at the Western Championships were quite even in competitive ability. He said the only team that stood apart was Manitoba, who ended up winning the tournament and even they were not light years ahead of the competition.
Winning provincials and placing third at westerns, the Coyotes have certainly had a very successful season. Pannenbecker said that even outside of those tournaments, the team has been very dominant all season.
Only three league games were lost by the Coyotes all season, said Pannenbecker. He added that he was impressed with how the team had played.
Pannenbecker said he attributed the team’s success to an experienced roster. He said a lot of the players on this year’s midget team were second or third year veterans.
The successful season, the third place western finish and in particular, the provincial championship win hold special significance for the Coyotes and especially Pannenbecker as they dedicated the season to their missing teammate, Denny’s son Damien, who died in a motor vehicle accident earlier this year.
“It’s a big honour for me that the boys played that hard and that well for Damien,” said Denny. “It just goes to show what kind of teammate he was to them that they wanted to play and fight for that championship for him.”
Denny added the provincial victory was an emotional experience for him.
Both Denny and Bell are already looking forward to next season as well. While the pair said they will be losing some strong veterans next year, the younger up and coming players on the team look strong.