The Abbotsford Junior Cardinals are hot.
The club enters the B.C. Junior Premier Baseball League’s (BCJPBL) Provincial Championship having won 17 of their last 18 games.
“The confidence level is high and we’re one of the teams others will be afraid to face,” said head coach Shawn Besse.
The Junior Cards finished the season in third place and are riding a nine-game winning streak, with several players leading the league or vying for the league-lead in key areas.
Abbotsford’s Cade Smith leads the BCJPBL with 59 strikeouts, while fellow pitcher Jarrod Manick finished second, just behind Smith with 57. Manick also sits fifth amongst ERA leaders at 2.27.
Junior Cards infielder Robert Bradley finished the season with a league-leading 25 stolen bases, while Dylan Ohlsen’s 23 RBIs on the season puts him third amongst the league. The Cardinals’ Gage Buck was fifth among RBI leaders with 21, while Brett Bass posted 20.
The post-season format consists of the top eight teams, broken up into two pools of four, facing off in round-robin play, which begins today (Friday) at Parkgate Park in North Vancouver. The top two in each pool will then move on to the semi-final and championship match, which will be played Sunday, Aug. 9.
With Abbotsford finishing third, they will face second-seed, North Shore Junior Twins, along with the North Delta Junior Blue Jays and White Rock Junior Tritons, who are the sixth and seventh seeds, respectively.
Besse said he isn’t concerned about the Junior Twins, despite North Shore’s home field advantage and a 3-1 edge over the Junior Cards during the regular season.
“They are a team that plays small ball and situational stuff just like us,” said Besse.
Abbotsford commanded the season series against North Delta and White Rock, defeating the former in all four matches while taking three of four against the Junior Tritons.
Abbotsford’s late season dominance is in stark contrast to the team’s efforts through April and March.
In the first half of the 36-game season, the club went 6-12, losing two tough games on the Island against Victoria in June, which prompted a team meeting.
Following the halfway mark, sitting at ninth place in the 10-team league, the Cardinals sprinted through 18 games, suffering just one loss to the Junior Twins in a doubleheader in July.
Abbotsford enters this weekend’s fray in full health, and open their post-season against North Delta. The Junior Cards follow that up, Saturday, with games against White Rock and North Shore.