The Swift Current Bantam Indians will go into this weekend’s 2014 Western Canadian Baseball AA Championships as underdogs and they don’t seem to mind. The host Indians will face competition from provincial champion teams from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
The Bantam Indians competed in AA Provincials earlier this summer and finished 0-3.
"We played pretty good at Provincials, we hit the ball,” explained head coach Mike Kozyn. “The first game we were overmatched of course against Muenster. But against Lloydminster and Humboldt, we certainly could have won those games, but it seemed like every time we hit the ball we hit it right at the other team. We just couldn't hit the holes, but we went down swinging anyway."
He knows his team will face even tougher competition as the hosts of Westerns this weekend.
"Yeah that is true, we are going to be in tough. We picked up four players, one from Humboldt, two from Muenster, and one from Moose Jaw, so we loaded up on pitching.
"Obviously our goal is to win Westerns, but to be honest with you I would be happy if we could win two games. I don't think we would be a favorite this year, but we are Swift Current and we have a reputation of playing good ball. Hopefully we uphold that and go down swinging again," said Kozyn.
The host Indians will take their shot at the Saskatchewan champion Weyburn Beavers on Friday at 9 a.m. at Kinsmen Field to open the tournament. They will face Winkler, Manitoba at 3 p.m. that day as well.
Kozyn is hoping that his team can embrace the underdog role.
"I certainly hope so. We play Team Sask, which is Weyburn, in our first game Friday at 9 a.m. They have beat us three out of four times this year, so hopefully they might take us a little lightly and we can sneak a win out of there."
Swift Current was also the site of Westerns last year so many of the Bantam Indians have the experience of playing in this tournament already.
"Yeah we do have that going for us, basically all of the Pee Wees played at Westerns last year and two of my Bantam players played Westerns last year. Then the kids I picked up, three out of the four were at Westerns last year. So probably out of the 13 kids, nine have played in Westerns."
Kozyn hopes they can lean on that experience.
"They know that is it very important that you have to win your first two games. Then usually out of your next two, one should not be a game that would really matter but you never know. Hopefully we can bring it with the experience that will help out the guys that haven't been there. It is just another level of baseball."
Even though they are underdogs, Kozyn said that his team has a real opportunity in front of them.
"For these kids it really is the opportunity of a lifetime. Westerns will be in Alberta the next two years and then the next two years in B.C. and these kids will be done baseball by the time it ever get back to Saskatchewan. Even though we did not win Provincials they still have got to understand that we are in Westerns and it is a privilege to be there even though we are hosting it."
The Bantam Indians will face Alberta on Saturday at 12 p.m. and the BC representative at 9 a.m. on Sunday.
"I know other provinces will be gunning for us because we do have a great winning history here in Swift Current," added Kozyn.
The Bantam AA Western Canadian championship game will be played Sunday at 6 p.m. at Kinsmen Field.