Astros split first 2 games on opening day of U15 Boy’s Canadian Championships

Prince Albert U15 Astros pitcher Zane LItzenberger goes into his windup during the opening day of the 2023 U15 Boy’s Fastball Canadian Championships. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert U15 Astros wasted no time getting their first win at the U15 Boy’s Fastball Canadian Championships on Wednesday.

The Astros used timely hitting to beat the Tara Longhorns of Ontario 9-5 Wednesday morning, but fell 2-1 to the Newfoundland Selects in a tough loss Thursday afternoon. The Astros are now one of four teams tied for fourth with a 1-1 record after the first day. The Selects are tied with the East Hants Mastodons of Nova Scotia and Napanee Express of Ontario for top spot with 2-0 records.

Astros 2B Isak Larsen said he was pleased with how the team performed on the first day of the tournament.

“I think we’ve done great so far,” he said. “We won a great game, lost a tough one, but two good games so far and we’re excited to play tomorrow.”

The Astros used a big four-run third inning to defeat the Longhorns, who are one of three Ontario teams competing in the tournament. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Astros SS Willis Finch hit a double to right field that scored two runners. Zane Litzenberger followed that up with a single that scored two more, making it 4-0.

The Longhorns got on the board with two runs in the bottom of the fourth, but the Astros scored another four in the top of the fifth for an 8-2 lead.

Litzenberger lead off the inning by walking on four straight pitches. He then stole second and scored on a ground out by Larsen. Cohen Ball then walked and stole second before catcher Connor Climenhaga walked to put two men on with no outs.

Both runners advanced a base on a wild pitch, and LF Ty Lacas brought them both home with a triple to left field. Lacas later scored on a single by 3B Dante Gamble.

The two teams traded runs with the Longhorns scoring one in the bottom of the fifth, the Astros scoring one in the top of the sixth, and the Longhorns scoring two in the bottom of the sixth, followed by a scoreless seventh.

“The boys hit the ball really well,” Astros coach Neil Finch said. “We had clutch hitting…. Defensively we probably could have cleaned up a few things, but I thought overall between the two games, we played really well.”

The Astros’ 2-1 loss to Newfoundland was a much different affair, with little offence as both pitchers dominated. Finch gave Newfoundland full credit for the win.

“They are a very tough team,” he said. “That’s the best of Newfoundland so they put together a team for their province to come here and our players played really well. When you’re in a 2-1 game and your U15 and you go seven innings, that’s a good game.”

The two teams were scoreless through five innings before the Astros scored one run in the top of the sixth.

Lucas singled and advanced to second on a throwing error. He then advanced to third on an infield single by Mason Ambrose, and scored on a wild pitch. However, that was all the offence the Astros could muster.

In the bottom of the inning, Newfoundland lead-off hitter Ty Boland reached first on an error, then scored on a triple by Jared Picco. The play was a controversial one, after Picco collided with Astros infielder Cohen Ball while rounding first base, causing the Newfoundland coaching staff to call for runner interference.

Picco would remain at third base. He was later tagged out at the plate after being caught in a rundown between third base and home.

The two teams went into the seventh tied at one. The Astros loaded the bases in their half of the inning but couldn’t score. In the bottom half of the inning, Newfoundland’s Jesse King advanced to first after getting hit by a pitch, advanced to second and third on two wild pitches, and scored the winning run on an infield single.

Finch said the team is taking the positives from the tough loss into Thursday.

“The message from all five coaches was keep your chin up,” he said. “We’re proud of them and they should all be proud of themselves. Tomorrow’s a new day, and that’s a team we will likely see in playoffs, so we’ve got to be ready for that at that time if it comes.”

The Astros are back at it Thursday afternoon when they take on the Wilmot Thunder of Ontario at 2 p.m. They then play fellow Saskatchewan club Ochapowace Loud Voice at 6:30 p.m.

Opening day scores:

Wilmot Thunder 16  Ochapowace Loud Voice 3

East Hants Mastodons 16  Saskatoon Selects 1

Prince Albert Astros 9  Tara Longhorns 5

Napanee Express 9  Elmira Heat 0

East Hants Mastodons 11  Valley Vikings 2

Newfoundland Selects 10  Wilmot Thunder 5

Tara Longhorns 8  Ochapowace Loud Voice 1

Elmira Heat 15  Saskatoon Selects 6

Newfoundland Selects 2  Prince Albert Astros 1

Napanee Express 12  Valley Vikings 0