The summer of 2018 proved to be a successful one for the North Winnipeg Pirates Bantam AAA. Although the squad came up short in the city championship, Manitoba provincial tournament and at the Western Canadian Championship, the team of 13 players proved themselves to be one of the top contenders in the province placing second in each of those contests.
Head coach Derrick Mudge said overall the season went the way they expected it to.
“In our league we play around 24 games and all of the teams make the playoffs,” said Mudge. “Throughout the season we’re trying to develop skills and get innings for our pitchers.”
The Pirates competed in three tournaments, taking home top prize in a Saskatoon AAA Bantam tournament, losing in the semifinal in Portage la Prairie Canada Day long weekend, and placing second in the St. James AAA tournament.
“At this level we’re going all the time,” Mudge said of the team’s busy schedule. “It’s probably five days a week we either practiced or played.”
At the end of the regular season the Pirates were second overall in their league. The results of city playoffs had a similar outcome, with the Pirates facing the first overall team, Winnipeg South, in the final.
“Winnipeg South beat us in the final,” said Mudge. “We got off to a rough start. We got down early and we just couldn’t battle back.”
The Pirates then set their sights on provincials at St. James Optimist Park. With the tournament champion earning a berth to Nationals and the second place seat earning a spot to play in Westerns, the Pirates found themselves competing in the championship match. They were up 4-2 against South Central in the last inning and ended up losing 6-4.
“Our goal was to go to nationals. We felt we definitely had a shot at the start of the year. We were one of the top teams,” said Mudge.
At Westerns in Winkler the Pirates had another good run. After a five-game round robin the Pirates had a 3-2 record for a second place finish, which put them against British Columbia in the tournament final.
“We had a lot of runners on base but we couldn’t get the big hit,” said Mudge of the Pirates 11-0 loss against BC. “We had loaded bases twice in the first two innings and just couldn’t get a hit to get them in.”
Despite three hard loses for the Pirates this season, that was not indicative of the team’s hard work and skill level.
“It was a fantastic tournament, the boys played great. Same as provincials, these kids played amazing,” said Mudge.
“They are a very hard working group of kids and they deserved all of their success.”