A difficult task awaits the Sarnia Braves when they begin play at the Ontario Senior Baseball “AAA” elimination tournament this weekend in Windsor.
The locals have drawn the top-ranked senior team in the province, the Tecumseh Thunder, in its opener on Friday night (July 31) at 7 pm.
But, if Braves team representative James Grant is anxious about going up against a club that has only lost a handful of games all season, he’s not showing his hand.
“We can put nine guys on the field that can compete with anybody,” said Grant. “It should be a lot of fun.”
The Braves were ranked among the best teams in the province for a number of weeks during the regular season but have fallen out of the top ten.
Sarnia’s second round encounter will be against either Oakville or Pickering, depending on the first round results.
As always, pitching will be key to whatever success the Braves have at the provincial affair, Grant said.
Sarnia added former Milwaukee Brewers prospect and 2011 Pan Am Games gold medalist Nick Bucci at the deadline to bolster its already solid rotation which includes the likes of Mike Damchuk, Nick Baljeu, Anthony Shephard and Wade Babula.
In a recent senior baseball poll, Damchuk and Babula both got votes as the toughest pitchers to hit in the Southwestern Ontario Senior league.
“It’s nice to go out there and know you’re going to be in a game because these guys have pitched so well,” said Grant.
On the offensive side, in the same poll, Justin Randall was chosen as the player most difficult to get out in the SWBL.
As for the season, Grant is pleased with how it has gone, especially since it’s a young team with an average age of only 22 years.
He pointed to Keegan Brandon and Alex McLean as players who have elevated their games this season, and said the most pleasant surprise has been rookie Tristan Buntrock.
“He’s played excellent defense and is hitting fairly well as for his first year in senior ball,” Grant said.
“All the credit to that guy for coming in as an 18-year-old and playing against some of the best.”
After this weekend, the Braves will begin league playoffs late next week. Dates and times were not available as of press time.
Sarnia finished second in the Southwestern Ontario League standings behind Strathroy.