By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Advance
The U18 AA Castor Raiders had a solid 2021 baseball season, earning silver on home turf at the Baseball Alberta Provincial Championships on Aug. 29.
Playing in front of the hometown crowd for only the second time this season, the Castor Raiders hosted the Provincial Championships on Aug. 27, 28, and 29.
The Raiders ended up playing in four games during the tournament. The first game they played, on Friday afternoon was against the Central Alberta Hounds, a close game in which Castor won 7 to 6.
The game was played prior to the official opening ceremonies of the tournament, which occurred at 5 p.m. Friday evening. During the ceremony, the teams were introduced, the national anthem was played, Mayor Richard Elhard addressed the fans, and the Filipenko family threw the ceremonial first pitch in honour of Dennis Filipenko, a long-time supporter of Castor Minor Sports.
“It was a wonderful experience (hosting the championships),” said Raiders Head Coach Jeff Bowen.
“The support from the town was unbelievable. I even had little kids wandering to find our players to get autographs.”
Castor again hit the field at 2:30 p.m. on Aug. 28, this time against the South Jasper Jays. In a truly dominating win, the Raiders won the game with a score of 18 to 2. During that game, Castor was up 15 to 1 in the first three innings.
On Aug. 29, Castor played the semi-final against the Bonnyville Braves, again dominating the field.
The final score for this game was 15 to 2. This third win put them in a position to compete for the coveted gold medal against the Calgary Cardinals in the championship game.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, the team had met their match against the Cardinals, and ended up falling 3 to 2 in a tightly contested game.
“It was a tough one,” said Bowen. “It was a good ball game. The Cardinals played just a little bit better.”
The tournament concluded what was a very strong season for the Castor Raiders.
“We started really strong,” said Bowen.
“We started to run into some really good teams later in the season that gave us some challenges. I feel we learned a lot about ourselves. Quite a few players grew from that adversity. It put us in a really good spot to compete for the gold medal in this tournament.”
The pandemic-altered 2021 season began in the beginning of June, and in total the Raiders played around 30 games. The teams record determines the tier that team is placed in, and with their strong record to start the season, Castor was placed in the top tier to finish it.
Throughout the season, which typically concludes in July, teams travel around Alberta usually participating in two tournaments a month, in addition to a few weeknights, single games. For the 2021 season, Castor played mainly away from home, hosting the Stettler Storm for one evening game, and finishing the season with hosting the tournament.
With the season concluded, Bowen is already looking forward to the 2022 baseball season.
“I’m hoping all the boys want to come back,” said Bowen. “We’re going to be really strong next year. We have some strong, talented players on this team.”
In addition to the returning players, Bowen is also hoping to get some new players as well, something that he feels is important for the growth of the sport.
“It’s really important to us to help grow the sport in town, and have the younger generation start to play,” said Bowen.