The Swift Current Pee Wee Indians are out to prove that they belong this weekend when they host the 2014 Western Canadian AA Baseball Championships.
The Indians were eliminated in the semi-finals at AA Provincials but they feel they are one of the top two teams in Saskatchewan.
They won once and suffered two one-run losses in the round robin at Provincials.
"Yeah we probably didn't play our best ball of the year at Provincials," admitted head coach Ken Wall. "It seemed like either our hitting was struggling a little bit or then the next game our pitching would be struggling. Despite that, we got into the playoffs and we ended up going against Unity and we knew right from the start that they would be the team to beat."
They faced Unity in the semi-finals and lost 16-12 in extra innings.
"We ended up kind of having a wild thriller there. I think we lost in two extra innings and it was a great game. In the end we probably just made a few more mistakes than they did. They ended it with a walk-off home run to eliminate us. They went on to beat Humboldt and they mercy'd them in four innings, which we kind of figured would happen. I think it is pretty obvious that the two best teams are at Westerns, so that will be good," said Wall.
The veteran coach knows that they have a steep climb ahead of them at Westerns.
"There is going to be no easy game that is for sure. Every game is going to be kind of a must-win situation when you have the five teams and only the top two make the playoffs and end up playing for the championship."
Playing well in all facets of the game will be critical.
"All year we have been really good defensively. Our hitting, we have been a good hitting team. We just hope that that weekend we don't have any lapses because that is going to be a big deal," said Wall.
"It always comes down to pitching. We did pick up three guys that I think are going to help us in that aspect. Having said that, I have full confidence in my guys. We pitched some great games, played some great games all year. Basically we played AAA teams all year and our record is well above .500."
The team picked up pitchers from Lumsden, Melville, and Dinsmore, one who played with the team as an affiliate player for a good part of the season. "I think all three will give us a little more depth in pitching, which is pretty key in a tournament like that."
Swift Current is hosting Westerns for a second straight year meaning that a number of his top players also played in the pressure packed tournament last summer.
"We have seven kids that kind of know what it is all about. Even though their roles were a little diminished last year, they kind of will understand the pressure and know that every team is capable of putting up a whole bunch of runs in short order, so I think that will help us."
The Pee Wee Indians have played well over 40 baseball games this season already and they took about 10 days off after Provincials to refocus.
"We got back together this week and started working pretty hard," said Wall.
The Indians hosted the Regina White Sox and the Unity Cardinals on Saturday and Sunday to get back into game action with four games over two days.
One different rule at Westerns will be the nine-man batting order instead of having all players bat each game.
"It is a different game when you only have nine kids batting compared to 12 or more. So everybody comes up more often and the things like getting substitutions in and things like that,” said Wall.
The Pee Wee Indians will open their tournament on Friday at 12 p.m. against the Alberta representative in their only action on the opening day.
The Indians will face British Columbia on Saturday at 9 a.m. and then take on the Unity Cardinals at 6 p.m. that evening. They will conclude the round robin on Sunday at 12 p.m. against Altona, Manitoba.
The Pee Wee gold medal game will take place Sunday at 6 p.m. at Ford Field.
"I am confident that we have the team. As always, a few things need to go right and we need to get a few calls and a few breaks and you never know," said Wall.