By Greg Price
How the Vauxhall Spurs baseball club will do at the upcoming districts in Great Falls, Montana is anyone’s guess if this past week’s American Legion ‘A’ play is any indication.
The Spurs finished its regular season at an impressive 23-8, but those losses are littered with teams near the bottom of the standings.
Case in point, a busy six-game American road trip this past week that was spliced with utterly dominating play mixed in with two losses to a squad buried at the bottom of the standings.
The Spurs beat the Lewistown Redbirds 9-4 and 14-4 last Wednesday.
“Lewistown, we played great. I thought those were two of the best games we played all year. The pitching was very good, Matt Melnychuk threw very well the first game and then Reed Odland followed it up with another good start the second game,” said Joel Blake, head coach of the Vauxhall Spurs.
“It all starts with us on the mound and defence and we played solid with both where our bats will always be there for the most part.”
The team then proceeded to drop two games to the Great Falls Chargers 5-2 and 14-4 as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde play surfaced last Thursday.
“At the time, they were in second-last place, they are a pretty young team. it’s kind of been an issue with this team. It’s very frustrating with the up-and-down play. It was kind of everything, we didn’t hit, we made some errors, we didn’t pitch great, it was a combination,” said Blake.
“I don’t know what is. Maybe it’s young kids not being prepared to play day in and day out. Sometimes we come out and play great and other days it seemed the kids’ heads are not in it, maybe they are thinking about something else. Maybe we are underestimating some of the bottom teams.”
Makeup games that were scheduled for Friday at Jets Stadium were canceled due to thunderstorms that made the field unplayable with the amount of water that fell.
The team did get its two road games in on Sunday that saw the Spurs shutout the Tri-County Cardinals in 13-0 and 6-0.
“They didn’t score a run all day which was pretty cool. We threw Laner in the first game (Jalen Lane) and he was as dominating as he’s ever been. We mercied them and he was throwing a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth when one guy got a hit off his hands where it blooped in front of the left fielder,” said Blake of Lane’s impressive one-hitter. “Our defence played well and we swung it.”
It all sets the stage for districts in Great Falls which start today, where the Spurs will see the very same Cardinals team in the first round.
It will be a chess match of sorts for the Spurs, just like very other team that will be vying for the one spot at State along side the hosts who get an automatic berth.
The Spurs go in as the second seed, but seedings aside, Blake is simply concentrating on winning out in a winner-take-all, for a state berth.
“Games are longer and we will be expected to use a little more pitching. We took a bit of a hit this last week-and-a-half where we lost K.J. Moreno, who has had to go back to Bermuda with embassy issues to play in America. Blaise (Unruh) blew out his arm in Kalispell where his arm has been in a sling, but he told me he’s good to go (for districts),” said Blake.
“And we didn’t have Dax Wandler who played at Summer Games. However things shake out, we simply have to win out with only one team making it. We just have to play our best baseball and we’ve shown what we can do when we do that. But at the same time, we’ve been so up and down, it’s tough to say.”