Astros hold off late charge to clinch playoff spot at nationals

The Prince Albert Astros came from behind to beat the St. George Spartans 5-4 at Boys U15 Nationals in Wilmot, Ont., clinching a playoff birth in the process.

The Astros trailed 3-1 until the bottom of the fourth when the club rallied for three runs to take a 4-3 lead. Prince Albert put up another run in the fifth, then held on in a close seventh inning for the win.

“The biggest thing is our boys are just having fun,” Astros manager Jordan Ambrose said following the game. “They got the jitters out early. Everybody was pretty nervous (after) that long trip, and being on a big stage like this, but we got the jitters out, everybody started playing for each other, getting behind each other, and supporting each other, and we were able to turn things around.”

The Spartans pushed one run across the plate in the top of the seventh, and had plenty of chances to do more damage when they loaded the bases with two outs. However, the final St. George batter struck out swinging, giving the Astros the win.

The team faces the Quebec provincial champions on Saturday at 7:30 a.m CST. That game will have major playoff implications.

“We’ve clinched a playoff spot. We just don’t know yet where we’ll finish,” Ambrose said. “That (game) will likely determine where we sit, but we’ve clinched. We’re in the playoffs, so that’s good.”

The Astros head into Saturday’s final round robin game with a 3-3 record thanks to a challenging start to the tournament. Delays and other travel difficulties meant the team never arrived in Wilmot until late Tuesday night, then had to play early Wednesday morning.

Prince Albert lost both games on Wednesday by a combined scored of 15-2 before rebounding wins over the Nickason Twins and Newfoundland Selects on Thursday.

“It was a quick turnaround,” Ambrose said. “The boys were pretty tired that first day (and) we didn’t play very well. Thursday, we had a good sleep, got our game back, and played pretty well.”

The Astros lost 11-1 to the host Wilmot Thunder Friday morning, but came back with another win against St. George to clinch a playoff spot. Wilmot sits in top spot heading into the final day of round robin action with a 5-1 record. Prince Albert is tied for fourth with Team Quebec.

Six of eight clubs participating in the tournament will make the playoffs. The top two teams must lose twice in the knockout stage to be eliminated. The remaining four teams can only lose once.

Ambrose said the trip has been exciting for the players, especially given how many fans are watching the Softball Canada livestream back in Prince Albert.

“We really appreciate the support,” he said. “Our phones are blowing up with every play and every win, so it’s pretty exciting knowing that everybody’s watching and cheering us on from home.”

SUBHEADLINE: Aces sit with 2-2 record as games delayed in Saskatoon

Rain delays meant the Prince Albert Aces game against Team Manitoba didn’t start until after 7 p.m. at Girls U15 Nationals on Friday.

The Aces went into the final day of action with a 2-2 record thanks to wins over the St. Albert Angels on Wednesday and PEI Whitecaps on Thursday. Final scores from Friday’s contest were not available by press time.

The Aces also have to play the Surrey Storm out of B.C. before wrapping up round robin action. The start time for this game was scheduled for 8 p.m. on Friday.

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