The Prince Albert U19 Astros came away with two victories on Monday, but the real winners were fans who got a taste of international softball.
The Astros downed the International Softball Academy’s (ISA) U19 Team New Zealand squad 4-2 and 7-2 in a pair of exhibition games at Max Power Ball Park on Monday.
“It was great to see the boys perform against a good team from New Zealand,” Astros head coach Kevin Preymack said afterwards. “Their pitcher was really good in the first game. Our bats weren’t quite there … but it came along.”
An enthusiastic capacity crowd received a unique treat before the first pitch was even thrown. The ISA team, which first began play in 2007, performed the traditional Haka dance more commonly associated with New Zealand’s rugby teams. The dance left an impact not only on the fans, but on the Prince Albert players as well.
“It’s definitely something different, to watch their dance they do before the game,” Astros second basemen Braidon Turner said afterwards. “We play against the same teams every year (and) it gets kind of old playing those guys. Having these guys come out, it’s a lot of fun.”
“It’s a good experience to play some international teams,” first basemen Cameron Leblanc added. “They play some hard ball and we came out with two wins, so that’s pretty cool.”
Although the Astros jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first inning, the opening game of the doubleheader quickly turned into a pitcher’s duel. Astros hurler Troy Preymack and his ISA counterpart Mo Hibbert combined for 9 strikeouts through the first four innings before Prince Albert broke things open with three runs in the fifth. ISA mounted a late rally with two runs in the seventh and final inning, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit, leaving the Astros with a 4-2 victory.
Game two started on a similar note, with Astros pitcher Darien Bellegard-Cote striking out five of the first six batters he faced. However, it was ISA who got on the board first after shortstop Josh Jacobs singled and later scored in the third inning.
The Astros returned in the favour with a three-run fourth inning, capped off with an RBI double from Bellegard-Cote. The Astros never looked back, adding three more runs in the sixth and another in the seventh to win 7-2.
Although the Astros coaching staff was proud of how their team performed, they also said fatigue played a big part in game two.
“I think with pitching, they were starting to tire a little bit,” Preymack said. “Both our pitchers stayed strong throughout both games.”
The Prince Albert club is back on the diamond for another pair of international exhibition games in July. They’ll take on Team Argentina on July 2 at 4 p.m. on Optimist Field and then face Team Czech Republic at 6 p.m. on Shaye Amundson Field.