As the Brantford Braves move past the Junior Inter-County Baseball League regular season, the team will be leaning on the experience of coaches Shawn Boyle and Gary Money.
The two coaches, who were part of the 2007 Braves team that went to Canada’s under-21 championship tournament, believe the current squad can achieve the same success this season.
“We are definitely capable,” Money said. “If we get our pitching, hitting and defence all in one package, we’ll be fine. We will make it there and we will battle in that tournament – there is no question in my mind.”
The coaches have already been sharing stories from the 2007 run that saw the Braves finish second at the Ontario double-elimination championships in order to earn a trip to Quebec City for the nationals.
“We’ve been talking already about the experience and I think some of the guys are starting to feed off of what we’ve been telling them and get some motivation,” Boyle said. “They are getting excited to win a chance to go there.”
To get the chance to travel to this year’s Baseball Canada junior championships, the Braves first have to make a strong run at the Ontario Baseball Association’s junior elimination tournament.
The tournament, being held in Burlington this year, is a gruelling three days starting on Aug. 3 that pits the Top 20 under-21 baseball teams in Ontario against each other.
The rules are simple: Lose twice, you go home. The teams will continue battling until there is one team left standing.
Boyle and Money say the Braves can’t leave their bats behind if they want to make the nationals.
“Every team in that tournament can hit,” Money said. “We all have pitching and defence at this level, but the bats are what make the difference. Every team we played at the tournament (in 2007), one through nine was a tough out.
“We have to get our hitting going to have success there.”
Aside from the Braves fighting for first place in the junior inter-county regular season, a tournament win from earlier this year also provides some confidence for the provincials.
Five teams from outside the JICBL loop that are in the junior provincials this year came to Brantford for the Braves under-21 tournament in May. The Braves emerged victorious.
The national championships are being held in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, beginning on Aug. 16.
“That tournament is one of the biggest you can go to,” Boyle said. “There’s a lot of scouts watching and it’s neat to play against players from all over the country. One thing we noticed was that some of the guys we played against have since gone on to play Major League Baseball.”
Boyle said the team will also be ready for the JICBL post-season.
“Our pitching and defence has been second to none,” he said. “It’s the offence that hasn’t quite been there sometimes. It’s been there against the weaker teams, but when we’ve seen some better pitching it hasn’t been as strong, but it’s coming along.”
Boyle said his players all have the ability to hit, they just need to find consistency as games become increasingly important.
“They are all going to be close games,” he said. “It will be a matter of who brings the bats.”