The Cranbrook Bandits proved a lot on Tuesday afternoon. Not only did they show that they can keep up — and win — against the best team in the conference, they showed that a little bit of rain wouldn’t stop them either.
Originally scheduled to face the Bitterroot Red Sox at 3 p.m. at Confederation Park, a mid-afternoon downpour delayed the Senior ‘A’ American Legion team by over two hours. Drying up the field as best they could, both teams quickly heated up with the Bandits taking game one 10-8 and then falling 5-0.
As a result of strong play from both squads early, the first game was tied 3-3 by the end of the third inning. While some big hitting allowed the Red Sox to take a two-run lead after the top of the fifth, a huge sixth inning let the Bandits to storm back into the game.
Robert Nickell kicked off the rally by grounding out to the first baseman and allowing Dan Mercandelli to score. Parker Thomason then hit a single to score another run, followed by another single that scored from Ryley Ducharme.
Brandon Thorn and Braiden Koran then hit back-to-back doubles to score four more runs and bring the score to 10-5 in Cranbrook’s favour, before Quinn Grist had a foul ball caught to end the inning.
Despite owning the biggest lead of the game with only a single inning to go, the Bandits had trouble closing out the Red Sox in the seventh. After having pitched six innings and surrendering nine hits while striking out four batters, Brandon Thorn was replaced by Carson Meggison.
Meggison didn’t last long though and was replaced after walking three batters to load the bases for the opposition. Stepping in was Nickell, who quickly allowed a pair of runners to score off a single. From there, he walked a batter before having a one line out, another groundout while scoring a single run and then ending the game on a fly out that was caught by Koran in right field.
With the victory, the Bandits handed the Red Sox just their second loss of the season in conference play and pushed their own overall winning streak five games. Unfortunately, the rematch didn’t end up going their way.
Bitterroot battened down the hatches in game two and kept the Bandits off the scoresheet. In the 5-0 win, the Red Sox only allowed only two hits and didn’t make a single error in the field.
Nickell started the game on the mound and threw for four innings, allowing six hits and four runs while striking out four batters. He was relieved by Meggison, who was strong in his short stint before the night was called after five innings due to the lack of sunlight.
With the split and recent sweep of a doubleheader against the Libby Loggers, the Bandits are now tied for third place in the West ‘A’ division of the Montana-Alberta American Legion baseball league with a 5-5 record. The Red Sox remain in first place with a 14-2 record.
The standings will determine the seeding for the District tournament taking place in Hamilton, Montana from July 26 to 29. The Bandits have 10 games remaining before the tournament, with their next doubleheader in Whitefish against the Glacier Twins on Saturday and their next home games against the Twins on Sunday.