Atlona Little League wins Manitoba championship-Story
The Altona Mosquito AA Bisons were crowned Provincial Champions in Charleswood.
Ten teams from around the province competed for the Mosquito AA Championships at Roblin Community Centre. The tournament consisted of two pools of five.
The Altona Bisons representing South Central began the tournament Friday afternoon with a 4-3 victory over Seine River (Carillon). Seine River got the early jump on the Bisons. A quick pitching change in the second inning and some timely hitting by Matt Klassen with the bases loaded in the second inning evened the scored at 2. In the bottom of the sixth Josh Neufeld walked, and advanced to third on a Brent Wiebe single. Neufeld then scored on a past ball to seal the victory for the junior herd. Dylan Stoesz, Josh Neufeld, and Tyrone Toews were credited with the victory.
With the nerves gone and the first victory on the board the Bisons faced the City champions Maples. Nicholaas Kehler got the start for the Bisons. The Bisons were in tough and found themselves in another tight game. Dylan Stoesz came up to the plate in the top of the fourth with the Bisons down one run, two outs, and bases loaded. Stoesz came through big with a triple. The Bisons carried the momentum with another single by Scott Bergen and scored another 3 runs that inning, and coasted to a 12-6 victory. Completing the game were Dylan Stoesz and Tyron Toews.
Saturday morning at 8:30a came early and it appeared the Bisons brought their gloves, but left their bats in bed. Neepawa was 0-2 coming into the game and needed a victory to stay alive. The Bisons started Josh Neufeld on the mound, and provided only two runs into the fifth inning . In the fifth the top of the lineup went 4 for 5 and with a timely single from Ben Neufeld and a sacrafice by Kyle Sawatzky scored five runs. The top of the lineup again went 4 for 5 in the sixth and scored another three. The final score was 10-1. Montana Giesbrecht and Dylan Stoesz completed the game on the mound.
At the 3-0 the Bisons were playing their final round robin game with the undefeated St. James Kirkfield-Westwood. KW was certainly looking for a victory throwing their best pitching at the Bison. The Bisons started with a strong performance from Nicholaas Kehler. Kehler held KW to one run through 3 innings. Two line drives by Kyle Sawatzky and Scott Bergen in the fifth could have blown the game open, however KW made great plays on both hits. The final score was 3-2. Montana Giesbrecht, and Brent Wiebe came in to shut KW down. With the victory the Bisons moved to 4-0 and elimated any chance of a tie breaker game, and guearanteed a place in Sunday's semifinal game.
With strong pitching performances and solid plate appearances throughout the lineup during round robin the Bisons were able to save some valuable pitching innings for Sunday's semifinal and final.
Montana Giesbrecht started the semifinal game with Charleswood. With the temperature at 36 degrees the Bisons took the field. Three strikeouts and one home run in the top of the first the Bisons found themselves down 1-0 against a hard throwing Charleswood Dodgers. However the Bisons came right back and scored 2 in the bottom of the first. That was all they needed to win, but managed another 4 in the 3rd to go ahead 6-1. Defensively third baseman Ben Neufeld made two big plays at third. Both times throwing out the lead runner on a force at second base, and Matt Bergen scooped up a couple of sharply hit ground balls. The Bisons only allowed one base runner beyond first base. Brent Wiebe complimented Giesbrecht strong pitching performance completing the final three innings on the mound.
The final paired the same two pitchers for the Bisons. Montana Giesbrecht and Brent Wiebe each threw three shut out innings. With the help of a four run first inning, and Josh Neufeld and Nicholaas Kehler combining for three force outs at second base, the Bisons looked poised to win. With Brandon threatening in the fourth inning Trevor Gerbrandt made a huge catch in the centre field. Both Giesbrecht and Wiebe were also solid throughout the weekend both behind the plate, and at short stop.
“The Bisons played as solid a defence as he has seen any team play”, said Kehler. There were a number of tense moments throughout the round robin but timely hitting and key defensive plays kept us in all the games”, added Kehler.
Nicholaas Kehler, and Josh Neufeld each threw six innings in round robin play. Tyrone Toews and Dylan Stoesz threw 5 and 3 respectively with Montana Giesbrecht and Brent Wiebe each throwing 2 innings.
Overall the Bisons first 8 batters in the lineup hit .483. With Nicholaas Kehler, Josh Neufeld, Montana Giesbrecht, and Tyrone Toews all hitting .500 or better and combining for a .546 average.
"We've seen it so many times this season, where we've gotten the big hit when needed, and combined with good pitching we have won ball games," Bisons coach Conley Kehler said. "Our fielding was second to none. We made a play on every ground ball that was within reach, and that is a huge boost for the team and pitchers".
Kehler attributes much of his teams success from playing a slightly older group of Little League teams in Neche, North Dakota in June. “We threw our two strongest 10 year olds in Neche, and they both realized they had the make up and endurance to carry our team. We also built some confidence in our hitters that tournament. It felt like a very confident group after that tournament.”
"Throughout the whole year and again at provincials the Bisons relied on the whole line-up for key hits, plays, and pitching. We can not contribute our season success to just a few players. This was a full team effort", Kehler said.
STORY SUBMITTED BY CONLEY KEHLER