Junior Deleon’s SOMBA Tigers aren’t the Best of the West anymore. That honour belongs to Ridge Meadows Chuckers, who defeated the Tri Cities Indians.
On Sunday morning at Carmi Field, the Tigers were downed by the Okotoks midget AAA Dawgs 9-5 leaving the Tigers with a 1-3 record in four games.
Deleon, the Tigers coach, was happy with how the weekend went and felt his team matched up with the Dawgs. An inability to play defence in the opening inning combined with pitching struggles led to the loss.
“(Ryohei) Ito settled down for five innings and then we’re in a different ball game right?” said Deleon, of his pitcher who struck out 18 batters in two games.
The Tigers coach felt they were a couple innings shy of being on the other side of the bracket. The Tigers opened with a 4-1 victory against the PBF Redbirds from Calgary, then lost 5-3 Friday afternoon to Tri Cities and were dumped by Richmond 12-3.
“One thing that I realized is last year we had the advantage of more depth,” said Deleon. “Losing six guys really hurts but I was pretty happy with what we did.”
The performance Ito displayed on the mound made an impression on Dawgs coach Brendon Newell.
“They brought in that Ito kid in the middle and he shut us down,” said Newell. “I think that kid has a promising future ahead of him.”
What Deleon liked most during the Best of the West tournament was the chemistry the players showed. To Deleon, gelling has never been an issue with his squads.
“They don’t get on each other when someone makes a bad play,” said the Tigers skipper. “No matter how far you are down, even when we’re down 5-0, our team is still in the ball game because no one has put themselves out of the game quite yet.”
Focus will be key.
“We’re going to be a team that needs to stay mentally focused to stay competitive,” said Deleon, who helped guide the Tigers to their best season last year. “Whether it be down one run, down four runs, or up five runs.”
Eric Maurer, a catcher and infielder for the Tigers, felt they played well against the Dawgs. More important, Maurer feels positive about the group said they should be able to do well this season.
The Tigers open their season on the road in Cloverdale and White Rock on April 9 and 10.
For the Dawgs, playing in the Best of the West was simply about getting outdoors to play. They haven’t been outside yet as their field was covered in a foot of snow.
“We have a beautiful indoor facility but it’s not the same as being out in the elements,” said Newell.
As for the tournament, Newell said they have always found the teams to be good.
“It’s always good for us to play the competition in B.C.,” said Newell. “We all know it’s one of the best baseball areas in all of Canada. Any time we can travel west, we have to elevate our game to compete a little bit.”