It’s been an interesting season for the Northwest Prairie Pirates, which saw the team battle through a number of injuries.
However, after getting everyone healthy and winning the Midget AA Tier I provincial championships last month in Swift Current, the Lloydminster based team with a number of area players are eager to build on their success this weekend at the Western Canadian Championship in Kamloops, B.C.
“When we went to the provincials, we had a mentality going in there that no one was going to take that title from us, which is the mindset we need to have again this weekend,” Unity’s Tanner Huber said.
“We got all of our pitchers back just before Swift Current and we started to get some good at bats together. We are hitting the ball harder than we were at the start of the year and we’ve been making a lot of good plays defensively.”
Huber is one of a number of Unity players on the roster, as Dylan Bosch, Damian Lantz, Skyler Mackie, Dillion Poschenrieder and Ethan Scherr join him on the team.
Also from the area are Cooper Olson and Mickenzie Sondergaard of Maidstone and Paul Cubbon of North Battleford.
“We’ve had a lot of exhibition games against a number of senior teams since we won in Swift Current and that’s really helped us to get that competitive edge back,” Cubbon said.
“You really don’t know what you are going to face at the Westerns until you get there, but we know they are going to be the best teams from Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba, so the teams from the senior leagues are a good warm up for us as the pitching we have been facing is really good.”
The Pirates had a challenging regular season in the Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League.
They finished the campaign with an 8-22 record as they dealt with a number of injuries.
“After we had our games in North Battleford in June, a number of our pitchers got hurt and we ended up going on a long losing streak,” Cubbon said. “Once we got them back, we went on to win four of our last six games before the provincials.
“That changed the whole complexion of our team, especially when we got our best pitcher Jaydon Gartner back. In midget baseball, you need to have strong pitching especially with the pitch counts that you have to work around at big tournaments.”
In addition to having a healthy pitching staff, a dominant offence and stellar defence were the key factors for the Pirates championship performance at the provincials in Swift Current.
Over the course of the tournament, which took place on July 22 and 23, the Pirates scored 55 runs in five games and only gave up 11 runs.
“We just played good baseball through the entire weekend,” Huber said. “We made a couple of errors in our very first game against the Regina Blue Jays, but we turned things around from there.
“Once we got that first win, we had a ton of confidence. You don’t really think about it in the moment as you’re going up against the other top teams, but it’s just a lot of enjoyment for everyone when you are playing well.”
In the championship contest against the Parkland Expos of Yorkton, the Pirates scored three runs in the fifth inning and then had a shutout performance from the pitching staff to pick up the title.
“Looking back on it, our pitching staff was the biggest key to our success in the game,” Cubbon said.
“Obviously they didn’t allow a run, but we had a lot more depth in our lineup compared to the Expos.”
The Pirates will arrive in Kamloops Thursday and will take to the field for the first time at 9:30 a.m. local time Friday against the Prince George Knights.
They will also be playing against the host Kamloops River Dogs, the Portage Pirates of Manitoba and the Black Gold Giants from Leduc, Alta.
This year’s trip to the Western Canadian Championships will be the second straight for Cubbon, as he was on the North Battleford Beavers squad that captured a provincial title and finished third in St. Albert, Alta. last August.
“It will be important for us to start the tournament with a win,” Cubbon said. “I know with the Beavers last year, we lost that first game and we were in catch up mode the rest of the weekend, especially as the top two teams only make it to the playoffs.”
The championship game will take place Sunday at 7 p.m.