BY ZACHARY CORMIER
The Lacombe Midget AA Dodgers got the ball rolling on the 2016 Baseball Alberta season with a couple of early season wins.
The newly-formed Dodgers Midget AA team worked their way to a 2-1 record in three Developmental Round matchups last week which included an 11-5 victory over Okotoks, a 9-6 victory over their Central Alberta rivals, the Red Deer Braves 1 and a 11-4 loss to a tough Olds team at home last Thursday.
“It was definitely a confidence booster for some boys,” said Dodgers Midget AA coach Dave Braun of the three game stretch.
“Having such a young roster this year, we weren’t really sure how or where we would fit into the league.”
The 2-1 record was enough to land the Dodgers in a tie for second place in Baseball Alberta’s Developmental Round South Division .
With the majority of the team being first years this season, the pair of early games served as a good introduction to players who are just starting to get adjusted to midget ball.
That group learned the style pretty quick and managed to secure a big victory over Okotoks in the first game.
“We were short benched. At the end of the game we only had nine of our 13 players, so we kind of had to manoeuvre around that. I think in that game a lot of our first years were aggressive at the plate, making contact and getting base hits and we were just able to get some runs in,” Braun said.
The same holds true for the Red Deer matchup, which took place three nights later at Great Chief Park.
“We always like to beat Red Deer,” Braun laughed.
“It was almost a repeat of game one where we were swinging the bats, making contact. We got a few outstanding plays in the field where you take a double away and you make a catch.”
They also got a lot of help from their defense.
“We played some pretty solid defense and got some good plays. We just did the basic plays right. In our one loss, we had a couple of errors and it showed.”
Braun said the group showed a lot of promise in their first three games, though there were a few things that they need to improve on, especially when it came to the loss to Olds.
“The boys had awesome games those two games. When we played Olds, we knew it would be tough because they came in second place in Tier I last year, and went to Westerns.
“Our youth showed. Their pitching was just a little more dominant than ours. We didn’t really know what to expect playing them and then we found out.”
According to Braun, the young squad, consisting of eight first-years, four second-years and one over-age player, headed into the tiering round with a developmental focus.
“Our goal was just hang in Tier II, use it as a development year and then next year or definitely the year after we want to make a push for Westerns,” he said, adding that they’ll still be gunning for Tier I in the remaining three games of the Developmental Round.
“Tier I is probably a stretch. If we’re there, great, if we’re not we’re prepared not to be there.”
But if it turns out that they fit better in the Tier II picture, the group won’t be taking it lightly.
“We’d like to be Tier I. Realistically we’re probably not going to be there. But if we’re in Tier II, we definitely want to be one of the top teams in Tier II,” Braun said, adding that the group will be gunning for a provincial championship this year.
“If we’re in Tier II, we definitely want to win it. From what I’ve seen so far, I think in Tier II we have a legit shot at winning it but it will come down to execution and if the boys really want it. I think the talent is there, it’s just they’ve got to want it.”
The Dodgers play their next game on Saturday against the Calgary Cubs at Wylie Athletic Park in Okotoks. They play the remainder of their Developmental Round games this weekend.
“We’ve got a couple of practices this week, so we’re going to work on some defensive holes that were brought up to us here in the Olds game, so we’re definitely going to try to tighten up the defensive side of the game. We’re also going to get mentally prepared for the game,” Braun said of the impending matchups.
Meanwhile, the Bantam AA and PeeWee AA Dodgers were also in action over the past couple of weeks.
The Bantam group got off to a great start when they defeated the Red Deer Braves 13-3 in their season opener at Kinsmen Park in Strathmore, but dropped their next two contests 15-7 against the Strathmore Reds and 13-8 to the Okotoks Outlaws Orange.
Their next game isn’t until May 28th when they play host to two games, first welcoming the Olds Spitfires to Michener Park at 10 a.m. before facing off against the Okotoks Outlaws at 4 p.m.
The PeeWee team fared a little better, picking up two straight home wins on opening day on April 30th, rolling past the Wetaskiwin Nationals 22-12 and a close 13-12 victory over the Coronation Royals.
On May 1st, the group visited the Red Deer Braves at West Park Diamonds in Red Deer, but they couldn’t fend off their rivals and fell 17-1.
The PeeWees are back in action this weekend for a trio of games, including a 6 p.m. home matchup with Red Deer Braves #2 at Michener Park on Saturday.
A full schedule of games for all teams can be found at www.baseballalberta.com.