It was a heart-breaking finish of the season for the East Central Bulls Bantam baseball team as they lost a pitched battle for gold against the Northeast Hurricanes on Sunday, Aug. 4.
Stettler played host to the Bantam AA Tier 1 provincials on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and saw the Bulls go through regular round-robin play to enter the playoffs at the top of their pool.
For the boys of the Bulls, this was the culmination of a successful season that saw them going into the provincials at the top of their league, the team to beat for gold.
The Sunday gold medal game saw the Hurricanes get the first runs across home plate, though by the end of the third inning, East Central was up 5-2, according to head coach Graham Schetszle. It was a lead they maintained and strengthened all the way to the last inning, when the Hurricanes brought home the extra runs needed to pull ahead of the home team.
With a runner on second and a runner on third, all the Bulls needed was one good hit to get at least one of them home to tie the game, two to win it – but the opportunity never came.
“We just couldn’t get the hit to go the right way,” Schetszle said. Up by one point, the Northeast Hurricanes took the gold prize, leaving the Bulls with silver.
“It sure was a heartbreaker at the end,” Schetszle said. “They (players) were distraught. They care a great deal about the game, and they’re good kids. For us as coaches, that was really tough, seeing how heartbroken they were. For parents, too.”
Even though it stings now, Schetszle knows that silver isn’t something to be ashamed of and knows his players will feel that way too, once they’ve had time to get over the oh-so-close loss.
“They’ve played great all season and have improved individually and as a team,” he said, praising his players.
“Four or five of those kids I’ve coached now for a few years. Others were new, all very talented but maybe a bit more raw about the finer points. And they’ve all worked hard and become better through the season.”
The East Central Bulls pull players from all over central Alberta, including one player from Stettler (Paul Georget), one from Castor, one from Veteran and three from Coronation. Others come from as far as Oyen.
Stettler was chosen for the provincials due to its central location, sporting facilities and support in the community.
“We’re really impressed with the Town of Stettler,” Schetszle said. “The community support for the tournament was excellent.”