Strong play by the South Okanagan Minor Baseball Association midget AAA Tigers has coach Junior Deleon optimistic about provincials in Chilliwack this weekend.
The Tigers closed out their regular season schedule on July 28 with a 3-2 win against the Tri City Indians. They won three of their final eight games to finish 13-27-0.
Deleon said his team was able to beat clubs ahead of them in the standings.
“Not only have we played well over the last little bit, but we have had some good practices to work some kinks out,” said Deleon. “The boys are starting to believe that this could be a special run at the provincials.”
With that feeling, Deleon added that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Tigers advanced to the second round. However, their opening match against the Victoria Selects, who finished fourth with a 19-18-0 record, is key.
“The first game is the biggest when it comes to moving on to the next round,” said Deleon, whose team then faces the Cloverdale Spurs, the best team in the league, and the Chilliwack Cougars. “If you win the first game at the provincials, you are usually in the driver’s seat. Winning the first game takes so much pressure off of the players and makes game 2 less tense.”
Part of the reason Deleon is confident has to do with pitching. Bradley Fleming had a strong outing against Victoria and has pitched well. Deleon said the Tigers have more pitching depth. With several four-game weekends during the season, the Tigers’ coach feels they are well prepared.
Deleon also has a stronger grasp of his lineup as some players were forced to miss games late in the year. That gave others the chance to step up. Early in the season, the Tigers received their production from the top of the lineup, now everyone is performing.
“The Tigers did come into the provincials in the last qualifying spot, but the team is in better shape then the record shows,” he said.