Perhaps the familiarity of home was simply too comfortable.
After knocking around the competition last weekend in Trail, the Cranbrook Bandits (8-7-0) returned home to Confederation Park this past weekend, dropping three of four outings in American Legion Baseball action.
Greg Rebagliati hit a walk-off single, scoring Rylan D’Etcheverry in the bottom of the seventh inning, as the Bandits eked out a 3-2 victory over the Glacier Twins. From there, it was all downhill, as the Twins exacted revenge with a 7-4 triumph in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Sunday, the Kalispell Lakers sent the Bandits to back-to-back defeats with wins of 8-5 and 4-3.
After going 1-3-0 over the weekend, the Bandits now sit 8-7-0 through the first 15 games of their Montana State ‘B’ American Legion Baseball campaign.
“We had too many runners left on base, we had scoring opportunities and we couldn’t cash them in,” said Paul Mrazek, head coach of the Cranbrook Bandits.
“We pitched well enough, in a lot of areas defensively we were fielding the balls hit at us quite well… But sometimes we were making throws when we didn’t need to and throwing the ball away when there was no play. That didn’t help either.
“We need to be a bit more patient.”
D’Etcheverry, a 6-foot-1, 160-pound Selkirk Secondary School school, was involved in the offense from start to finish in Saturday’s 3-2 triumph over the Twins, while Dan Mercandelli registered a complete-game effort on the mound, going seven innings strong with five strikeouts and only one earned run.
First, the lanky third baseman managed to steal home for a 2-0 Cranbrook lead after the Twins were caught chasing Rebagliati, who was busy trying to swipe second base during the bottom of the third inning.
A two-run effort from the Twins in the top of fourth inning knotted the game at 2-2, setting up for Rebagliati’s heroics.
As the lead-off man for the bottom of the seventh inning, D’Etcheverry got things rolling, knocking an infield single before thieving second base to put himself in scoring position.
With no outs on the board, the Bandits were primed to score the walk-off win and Rebagliati made sure that never came into question.
After battling to a 2-2 count, the 5-foot-8, 135-pound Laurie Middle School student sent a soaring fly ball towards Twins’ left fielder Mason Laliberty. Try as he might, the Twins’ outfielder was unable to get under the ball leaving D’Etcheverry to cross home safely courtesy a Rebagliati’s game-winning single.
“He’s been a great addition,” Mrazek said of Regabliati. “He’s come in, he’s pitched well most of the time —he’s a little tender right now — but he is getting in there, he’s a young kid and he’s got no fear. He’s putting the ball in play, hitting some line drives and had some doubles.
“He’s just blending right in at this level and doing a great job.”
The Bandits’ dugout erupted, emptying to the infield where both D’Etcheverry and Rebagliati were mobbed at the mound.
Saturday’s game-winning knock was undoubtedly one of the biggest hits of Rebagliati’s time with the Bandits, having just joined the club as a rookie this season.
In only six games, the fresh-faced rookie is batting .400 (4/10) with his only registered RBI being Saturday’s plating of D’Etcheverry.
Still, Rebagliati wouldn’t have been presented the opportunity to walk-off Saturday’s win if not for the play of the veteran D’Etcheverry.
In 12 games, the third-year Bandit is hitting .257 (9/35) eight runs scored and eight RBI.
For the 5-foot-11 Mercandelli, Saturday’s effort was another strong performance to start the his 2016 campaign. Having started four games, the third-year Bandit is 2-0 with a 0.91 ERA, having struck out 18 batters while only walking four.
“Mercandelli pitched great,” Mrazek said. “He pitched the full game and his pitch count was still low. He got ahead of the hitters, worked in that breaking ball of his and he did a great job.”
Quintin Schriver took the loss for the Twins, walking seven batters, striking out four and allowing two runs (one earned) over 4.1 innings of work.
The Twins were able to strike back in the backend of Saturday’s doubleheader, staking out a 7-4 win. The visitors from Whitefish, Mont., erased a 4-2 deficit, scoring five runs in the final two innings of play to earn the victory.
Sho Kanzaki started the game and went 5.1 innings, striking out three batters and allowing only one earned run. Caden McCormack eventually came on in relief and was saddled with the loss, allowing three runs, despite none of them being earned.
Trey Gates registered the victory for the Twins, coming on in relief of starter Matt Morrison after four innings.
Sunday, the Kalispell Lakers travelled north of the border and made good on their mileage, claiming 8-5 and 4-3 wins.
In the opening game of the matinee doubleheader, the hometown Bandits found themselves down by a healthy five-run gap, trailing the Lakers 8-2 heading into the seventh inning.
After keeping the visitors off the board in the top of the seventh, the rally caps were on as the Bandits scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to claw back within striking distance. Unfortunately, it was too little too late as the Lakers escaped a late collapse to win 8-5.
Veteran lefty Tyler Thorn took the loss, lasting 4.1 innings, allowing seven runs (four earned) while walking five batters and striking out two. Clayton Jacques started the game for the Lakers and earned the victory.
In Sunday’s weekend finale, the Bandits coughed up a two-run lead before falling 4-3 to the Lakers.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the top of the third inning, the visitors got within one in the third before scoring twice in the top of the fourth inning to take the lead. An insurance run in the top of the seventh inning put Kalispell ahead 4-2 and one lone run in the bottom of the inning wasn’t enough for the hosts.
Rookie Brandon Thorn took the loss on the mound, going 3.2 innings and allowing three earned runs on four hits. On the other side of the ball, Drew Flink went four innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits to stake out the win.
“When our pitcher is doing well and the defense is doing their job, if they get a couple guys on base, we have to try not to panic and be patient,” Mrazek said. “We also need to hit the ball a little better… We didn’t get enough guys getting base hits in.”
The Bandits sit 3-3-0 in home action at Confederation Park following the weekend and will look to get back above .500 Tuesday when they host the Kootenai Valley Rangers for a doubleheader.
First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. in Cranbrook, making for a quick turnaround from the weekend’s action.
“Typically, I don’t want to pitch these guys [who pitched on the weekend] for another five days,” Mrazek said. “We’re going to look at some of the guys that didn’t throw as much on the weekend and it’s going to be an opportunity for guys that haven’t pitched as much to get on the bump. I want to see some new guys up there and see what they do.
“If we can tighten up defensively a little bit and keep pitching well, we should start to see more [wins].”
From there, the Bandits travel to Whitefish, Mont., to take on the Glacier Twins in a doubleheader on Saturday, June 18. The following day, the Cranbrook kids visit the Mission Valley Mariners in Polson, Mont., for another doubleheader day.
Extra Innings: Bandits infielder Carson Meggison (back strain) remains on the disabled list, but Mrazek expects to have him available in one to two weeks…