Blue Devils get to see top teams in their 2014 Woodbat journey
If there was one thing the Spokane Blue Devils took away from their 2-3 finish at the Spokane Woodbat Classic it was the sneak peek at some of the pitching those who will move on to play collegiate baseball might face.
But Blue Devils’ head coach Steve Hare also watched as his pitching continued to improve little by little and bats were making more and more contact.
Spokane, which features Cheney players Tanner Smith and Kyle Barsness, opened the Al Jackson pod play Thursday with a 3-1 win over Missoula and a 7-0 loss to the Napoleon River Bandits from Ohio. They lost in their opening game Friday 6-0 to the Boise Capitals but evened their tournament record at 2-2 with a 4-2 win over the Medicine Hat Moose Monarchs.
The win over the Canadians advanced the Blue Devils to the next round where they lost 8-0 to eventual tournament runner-up, Bellingham Post 7.
Facing the visitors from Ohio, a team that made it to the American Legion World Series last summer, appeared to be somewhat of an awe-inspiring experience.
“They were huge as my kids would say,” Hare said. That’s figuratively and literally.
Napoleon had a lot of returnees back from college, Hare said.
“We faced a lefty that was awfully firm and gave a lot of our guys that are moving on to the collegiate level next year an opportunity on exactly what was waiting for them,” Hare said of the Bandits’ Mason Aelker who plays at Sinclair Community College.
Aelker limited Spokane to just two hits, one a single in the seventh inning from Smith. “It was a great experience for them, something they haven’t seen all season,” Hare said.
Smith ended the tournament with a pair of hits in 12 plate appearances in four games. He and Barsness, who went 0 for 10 with an RBI, both sat out the Medicine Hat game.
Their final game came against the perennial state powers from Bellingham, who fell to the Spokane Northstars 11-5 in Sunday’s title game at Jackson.
“They’re in the finals of just about every Legion end of the season tournament,” Hare said. “They’re a quality team.”
Hare said Bellingham made quick work of the Blue Devils “ I don’t even think it lasted an hour, 57 minutes actually. That’s just another quality team that put the pedal to the metal; it was hard for us to keep up,” Hare said.
The Blue Devils’ tournament play seems to bode well for the AAA Senior American Legion team as they battle for the final playoff spot in the Spokane league with a crucial three-game series with the Northeast 49ers.
Playing high-level teams proved to Hare that his players can compete. “I saw our bats come around,” Hare said.
“Instead of hoping things would happen to them they decided to make things happen,” Hare said. “Even in that Bellingham Post 7 game we hit the ball, it was just right at guys.”
Hare said Cheney’s Tristan Flippo, injured when a ball skipped off the dirt of the batter’s box during a game two weeks ago in Belgrade, Mont. , has left the team.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.