The Stettler Vipers are a first-year franchise, but the bantam AA competitive baseball team goes into this weekend’s Tier 2 provincials at Okotoks with high expectations nonetheless.
“If we play like we can, we have a really good shot at (winning) it, or at least representing the area well,” said Collin Georget, one of Stettler’s assistant coaches.
“Our schedule would be as good as we could have predicted it to be. It gives the top teams an advantage on pitching, and that’s always beneficial.”
Stettler’s favourable schedule begins with a 3 p.m. game Friday against the host Okotoks Orange. That night, the top-ranked Vipers plan to attend the opening ceremonies, which will coincide with an Okotoks Dawgs’ Western Major Baseball League game at the spiffy Seaman Stadium.
Stettler’s lone game Saturday is a 6 p.m. date with the Edmonton Angels, the other entry in the three-team Pool A.
Pool B is made up of St. Albert, Leduc and Bonnyville.
Playoff action is scheduled for Sunday, by which time the Vipers hope most of their pitchers are still in fine form.
After completing Tier 2 regular-season action, the Vipers were off for the past two weeks, except for practices.
“We were trying to get some exhibition games organized, but everybody was scared of us,” Georget said with a laugh.
“You can practise, practise, practise all you want, but it’s different than game time.”
Stettler had the option to pick up players from lower tiers for the provincials, but the coaches have decided to stick with their 11-man complement.
“I think we’re going to go with who we have,” said Georget, part of a coaching staff that includes fellow assistants Ryan Mulgrove and Bob Poapst and head coach Scot Reichert. “We’ve got a pretty good squad.
“It’s one of those things where how do you pick up a kid and put one of your kids on the bench, after they’ve worked so hard to get there.”
Made up of 14- and 15-year-olds from Stettler, Castor, Coronation and Big Valley, the Vipers began the season with 13 players, but Jeff Ternes and Alex Leblanc advised that they wouldn’t be available in July.
With a short lineup, “substitution gets pretty tricky,” Georget said before Monday night’s practice. “There’s pros and cons to it. None of the kids like to sit, so having 11 kids is easier than having 13, from that perspective, but if you have an injury or something, it gets very tricky. Especially in the competitive level, we have to follow the very specific substitution rules.”
One of the tricks for the Vipers is their pitching depth. The arsenal includes starters Kyle Poapst, Paul Georget, Ryland Stefanik, Justin Golby and Tye Mulgrove, and relievers Taylor Frank and Evan Reichert.