June 20th, 2024

Majors heating up at right time

By Ryan McCracken on July 20, 2018.

NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN
Medicine Hat major AAA All Stars Gavin Smith (left) and Zach Herman work on ground balls together during a practice at Lovell McDonnell Field on Thursday.


rmccracken@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNMcCracken

The Medicine Hat major AAA All Stars are ready to fight for top of the province.

After a week of team building and fine tuning, Parker Krauss says he and his teammates are ready to battle Alberta’s best at the Alberta Little League championship in Lethbridge.

“I think we’re feeling good,” said Krauss, who made the jump to major AAA this season. “We got second at a couple of tournaments and we’re feeling good going in here. We’ve won our last two games.”

If the old adage that defence wins championships rings true, All Stars head coach Chad Nelson says his squad will have a solid chance when they kick off the tournament today against Bow Ridge. With nine of 11 players ready to toe the rubber if required and plenty of progress made at the plate in recent weeks, Nelson says the 9-8-1 All Stars hope make some noise on the provincial stage.

“Our pitching has been good, our defence has been good. We had a slow start on the bats but it’s picked up,” said Nelson, adding the team spent the majority of Thursday’s practice in the cages. “We’re making sure that we’re tuned up to hit high performance pitching — kids who can throw hard, kids who can throw offspeed and different kinds of pitches.”

Kids like the All Stars. Nelson says many of his pitchers have impressive command of an expanded arsenal, which not only helped them to nine regular season victories, but a pair of silver medal finishes at tournaments with strict pitch counts as well.

“It makes a huge difference. You can’t go into a weekend and not have the ability to make changes when you need to because some kids are more effective against different teams. When we get into a situation where we need to make that change we have confidence to go to something else and get some outs,” said Nelson. “We have a strong pitching staff and some kids who have some good control with offspeed and curveballs.”

Krauss added many of the team’s players have competed alongside one another for years, and they often work on team building away from the diamond as well. The team spent Wednesday at Echo Dale for a team building retreat before returning to the diamond for practice Thursday, and Krauss says the level of friendship and familiarity has an impact on the field.

“We’ve all played together since we were six or seven so we all know each other really well. It’s been lots of fun this year,” said Krauss, who comes from a baseball family, with his brother Carter competing as a Moose Monarch this summer. “I love it. You get to learn lots from your older siblings and there’s never a day off. You can play catch every day.”

The All Stars will take on Rocky Mountain Saturday before facing CalWest and Confederation Park Sunday. They’ll close out the group stage with games against Fish Creek Monday and host Lethbridge Tuesday before getting down to championship player. The winner of the tournament will advance to represent Alberta at the Canadian Little League Championship in Mirabel, Que., Aug. 2-11.

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