The Prince Albert Astros earned a bye to the U16 Softball Provincial final after going undefeated in round robin play at Rotary Field Friday and Saturday.
The Astros defeated the Shellbrook Rangers 7-0 Friday night, then downed the Saskatoon Longhorns and Saskatoon Fury on Saturday.
Astros head coach Derek Mitchell said it feels good to see his team in Sunday’s final, but added that the group isn’t taking anything for granted.
“You definitely want to see the growth and development above all else,” Mitchell said after the Astros 7-3 victory over the Fury Saturday night. “If you’re concentrating on doing the right things and the little things in the game, then the wins will take care of themselves.
“We haven’t even really talked to them very much about even winning. It’s just focusing on staying positive, keeping yourself in a good frame of mind.”
The two Saskatoon teams will battle for the right to face Prince Albert in a semi-final Sunday morning. The Fury defeated the Longhorns 6-5 in the opening game of the tournament, and Mitchell said they’re expecting a strong challenge from whichever club advanced to the final.
“That’s a team over there that’s definitely capable of doing some damage to us too and we know that,” Mitchell said after their win over the Fury. “We’ll see who we have to play. Both Saskatoon teams are really good, so no matter which one we get, it will be a good game tomorrow.”
Mitchell said it’s been a rewarding tournament for a group of players that finished fourth at U14 provincials two years ago. Earning an automatic spot in the final, he explained, shows just how much the club has improved.
“It’s been a two-year journey with this group,” he said. “Our programs gone from having no U16 team two year ago to (the U16 provincial final).
“There’s been a lot of hard work put in by these boys and we’ve got ourselves in a spot here to do something great.”
Prince Albert Astros 7 Saskatoon Selects Fury 3
The Prince Albert Astros got all the offence they needed in a four-run second inning on route to their third-straight victory at the U16 Boy’s Softball provincial tournament Saturday night.
The Astros scored four runs in the second, and held off a sixth inning charge to beat the Saskatoon Selects Fury 7-3 at Rotary Field.
“We played doubleheaders in Saskatoon against (the Fury) so we’ve seen them a few times,” Astros head coach Derek Mitchell said when asked for his thoughts on the win. “They’re vastly improving. They’re right there now too. It’s kind of a weird game. Anything can happen.”
Leading 4-0 in the fourth, the Astros looked to pad their lead by loading the bases with no outs. However, two quick ground outs had the club looking at possible getting nothing for their efforts.
That changed when Kaden Burgess scored on a wild pitch, giving the Astros a 5-0 lead.
The club cruised through the fifth, but got into trouble in the sixth when a series of throwing errors, passed balls and wild pitches allowed the Fury to push three runs across the plate.
Mitchell said it was a bit of a nervous inning for his club, but one they were able to learn from.
“You never really know what’s going to happen,” he said afterwards. “That one obviously looked like we had control, and then all of a sudden, the 15 and 16-year-old nerves come out a little bit … and next thing you know, it’s a little closer than what you’d like.”
The Astros rebounded to score two runs in the seventh thanks to Keegen Dansereau’s bases-loaded single, and Chase Hansen hurled a scoreless bottom half of the inning to preserve the win.
The victory means the Astros receive an automatic bye to the finals, which are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. They’ll play the winner of Sunday’s semi-final, which starts at 11 a.m. Both games are at Rotary Field.