Although their final game at the 2018 Under 19 Canadian Men’s Fast Pitch Championship didn’t go to their liking, the Prince Albert Astros were able to come away from Napanee, Ont. with some hardware.
The Astros finished the tournament with an 8-4 record and captured a bronze medal Sunday as they fell in the semifinal game to the host Napanee Express by a score of 6-0.
“It was a good week for us and a great result for everyone on the team,” Astros assistant coach Steve Bicknell said. “We went 6-2 in the round-robin, which was good enough for fourth place and gave us two lives for the playoffs.
“That was important for us as we lost our first playoff game and then needed to win out just to make it in the medal round.”
After dropping a 4-3 decision in eight innings to the Express Saturday morning, the Astros jumped out to a five-run lead and held off a late rally by the Belmore Sting of Ontario on their way to a 5-4 win to keep their title hopes alive later that afternoon.
They kept up their strong play Sunday morning in the quarter-final round as they received a pair of RBI’s each from Braiden Turner and Troy Preymack on their way to a 7-6 win over the Delisle Pride.
“Even though we lost that first game to the Express, it was an exciting game to play in and we were able to build off of that for the rest of the playoffs,” Bicknell said.
“The win against Delisle was very satisfying for us. Not only we were able to beat a provincial rival, but it also guaranteed that we would leave with a medal.”
In the semifinal loss to the Express, the Astros were unable to solve pitcher Riley Manion, as he struck out 17 batters on his way to a no-hitter.
Manion was a member of Canada’s team at the 2018 WBSC Junior Men’s Softball World Championship in Prince Albert last month and threw a no-hitter in a round-robin win over the Czech Republic.
“There were a number of players from Team Canada here this week and the caliber of play was very high among all of the teams,” Bicknell said.
The Express would go on to win the gold medal by a score of 9-2 over the Chepstow Lang Farms team from Ontario.
Landon Couture led the way for the Astros at the plate during the tournament, as he posted a .361 batting average, hit a pair of home runs and drove in 14 runs in 12 games.
“Our pitching was solid all week as well,” Bicknell said.
“We picked up Cayden Schmautz from Saskatoon before the tournament and he pitched real well, as did Darian Bellegarde-Cote and Troy Preymack.”
The trio, who were also joined on the mound by Carter Hibert, combined to strike out 78 batters and had a 3.35 earned run average for the week.
With only Turner and Dawson Bender aging out of the U19 ranks, the future looks bright for the Astros as they get ready fxor the 2019 campaign.
“Our team is very young with several first year guys, which includes Jett Amundson and Ryan Bicknell who are actually U16 players,” Bicknell said.
“I think this experience at the Nationals should help our guys out a lot, especially as they got to face some great competition from all over the country.”