Pitching will set the tone between the South Okanagan Minor Baseball Association bantam AA Tigers and Kelowna Reds.
That is what Tigers coach Joel Graf believes as his team hosts the opening two games of a best-of-five series at McNicoll Park Friday at 5 and 8 p.m. for a provincial berth.
“Honestly, I feel that we are a deeper team pitching,” said Reds coach Chris Jarvis. “Out of the 15 guys we have on our roster, 13 are pitchers. If it goes to full-length five games, the pitching is in our favour.”
The Tigers earned home field advantage for the showdown as they defeated the Reds 4-3 in the FoFu Final in Cloverdale. Facing each other for seventh and eighth place in the tournament, they decided the winner would host.
“It was a very intense game,” said Graf.
When asked what makes the Reds good, Graf said they have depth, pitching and registration.
“They get to pull out of a larger area,” he said. “We only had 21 kids sign up for bantam. To form a team that we have of 21 kids, is pretty phenomenal.”
Jarvis said the Tigers follow the lead of their high-energy coach.
“They come out ready to play,” said Jarvis. “Any let down and they take advantage of it.”
While Jarvis said his pitchers will make a difference, he also said the team that makes the fewest mistakes will triumph. Most of their games have been decided by one run.
“It’s not usually a clean baseball game played by both teams,” said Jarvis. “We’re pretty evenly matched — pitching, hitting and on the field. The more mentally prepared team will come out on top.”
Tigers second baseman Matt Jones said defeating the Reds will come down to working harder than Kelowna and playing the way they have all year.The Tigers went 13-2 during the spring season, with their only losses coming against both Kelowna teams. When the season wrapped up, the Tigers picked up three West Kelowna players in Sean Haylow, Treyton Waardenburg, and Dylan Faulkner.
Jones, along with teammates Matt Brodt, Chase Decosse and Tayler Kanke played with the Thompson-Okanagan team in the B.C. Summer Games and placed fifth. The main thing Jones gained to bring to the Tigers is more confidence.
Brodt loved playing the best in B.C. and it motivated him to show what he can do. He’s excited to return and lead the Tigers to provincials.
“Can’t be too cocky,” he said of playing the Reds. “The pitching and preparation, that’s really going to be key.”
A small motivational factor to push both teams may come from the friendship between Graf and Jarvis, which Graf described as a shared “camaraderie.” Jarvis has known Graf for about a decade going back to their days in the Premier Baseball League when he coached the Kelowna Cubs and Graf played for the Penticton Bats.
“We don’t like to lose to one another,” said Graf.
“I don’t like to lose period,” said Jarvis, who laughed. “Losing to them, honestly, I go into every game feeling that we’re the better team. Losing any game, especially to Penticton, because over the last two years every game is decided by one run.”
It usually comes down to a mistake. Joel and I have very similar styles. It’s kind of like you are coaching against yourself, just in a different uniform.”