From eighth to second, that’s how the South Okanagan Minor Baseball Association Tigers finished their under-18 midget AAA season.
The Tigers lost 11-2 to the Cloverdale Spurs in the provincial championship match Sunday. Tigers coach Junior Deleon said it was one of their best games at the plate as they collected 13 hits.
The Spurs, who were three outs away from being knocked out by the Richmond Chuckers the game before, got a walk by the Tigers and used to score seven in the opening inning. The Spurs tacked on three more runs in the top of the third and one in the fourth. The Tigers scored both their runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Heading into provincials, Deleon said winning the first game was crucial. They did that downing the Victoria Selects 4-1. They then lost their next two games, 8-4 to the Spurs and 8-0 to the Chilliwack Cougars.
“Against Chilliwack the boys kept hitting the ball hard, so I was positive that if we got in it, we would put on a good showing,” said Deleon, who was impressed by his teams defence. “Like any young team, there were some blunders out in the field, but still so far ahead of the game when you consider there were only three seniors.”
Some of the Tigers took the loss harder than others, but the Tigers coach said everyone felt they had played well. Deleon added that unless someone was close to the team, the outcome of provincials would have been a surprise.
“To these boys, it was what they believed they had earned and deserved,” he said. “To others, it might have been a waste of time to go down as the eighth seed and a below .500 winning percentage, but our boys were up for the challenge and I believe they surprised the doubters.”
Deleon said with the players being young and well liked by other teams, parents and other coaches, it said a lot about the group he coached. Going into next season, Deleon believes his team will have a target on them.
“A young, talented, hard-working team with ridiculous haircuts will hopefully take a loss like that with some fire,” said Deleon, who thanked Jade Houle, Paul Pereversoff and Brett Fleming for giving him the chance to coach them in their senior year.