Peewee AAA Cougars Prepare for Westerns
Peewee AAA Cougars practice in Camrose in preparation for Westerns in Spruce Grove, Alta. on Thursday August 10, 2017. Ryan Stelter/Camrose Canadian
The Peewee AAA Cougars will be hoping to cap off a stellar season at Westerns this weekend in Spruce Grove.
The Cougars qualified for Westerns after they earned a silver medal in the final of tier 1 provincials. Gold medalists, the Okotoks Dawgs will be heading to Quebec for nationals, so the Cougars will fight to be the best in the west.
"At provincials we got better every game, and that was our challenge, to get better every game and see how it all fairs," said head coach Ryan Popowich. "Our pitching was outstanding; our bats were going all weekend and those are the keys to success if both of those are going. At the end of the day we walked away pretty happy with the idea that we’re still playing."
Popowich said despite losing the final, it can be used as a learning experience heading into Westerns. The Cougars have shown the ability to get closer as a team towards the end of the season.
"The last three weeks of the season we started working a lot on becoming a team, and understanding it's going to take all 11 guys to make this happen," Popowich said. "It starts from the pitching to the batting to the defence and they bought into it."
With no film available to study the competition at Westerns, Popowich said they will draw up a gameplan and hope it works. The Cougars have also added Graydon Gotaas of the peewee AA program and Tag Layton of Okotos to aid their quest for a Western championship.
"That's kind of the exciting thing, we don't know what to expect, some teams might bring in five or six pickups, some teams come with only one or two," Popowich said. "This is a group that's shown us that they can pick up that focus again."
Regardless of the result this weekend, the Cougars have had a successful season and have proved Camrose can have a AAA baseball program.
"The hope is that the association will realize that AAA can exist in Camrose, and it shouldn't be a scary thing anymore," Popowich said. "I think this group has shown the association that they are at a level now where they can compete at AAA. To me it would be a step backward if we take it away and don't have it next year. When you're playing better baseball, you get better."
Having a AAA program in Camrose can attract talent from other areas, and Popowich suspects next year Camrose will see kids from Wetaskiwin, Sedgewick, and Daysland come tryout.
"To me it's more about the growth of the association and developing players at the highest level that you can," he said. "We're going to have some years that will be pretty lean if we stay in AAA and that's ok too, that's how it works. At the end of the day, as long as the board supports it, and they back it, it'll go."
Camrose will begin play today with a game against a Manitoba team at noon, and on Friday games against another Alberta team at 8:30 a.m. and a Saskatchewan team at 3 p.m. On Saturday there will be placement games and the semifinals, and on Sunday the bronze and gold medal games will be played.