The Big League Experience hosted the Spring version of the renowned “Best of the West” tournaments for the 22nd year in a row! On back to back weekends in April, BLE hosted 26 teams April 5 – 8 (12 Midget/Junior Premier teams and 14 Bantam teams) and 24 teams April 12 – 15 (10 Premier and 14 Bantam teams) from throughout Western Canada. The tournaments once again took place in Kamloops, BC on the pristine McArthur Island baseball complex, an environment that is an ideal location for such tournaments. Not only was the “Best of the West” series a great way to kick off your season, the games were highly scouted especially during the Showcase Weekend.
April 5 – 8 Weekend
Twenty-Six teams from throughout B.C. and Alberta participated in two divisions (Midget-12 teams and Bantam-16 teams) in Kamloops, B.C. over the April 5 – 8th weekend for a competitive pre-season tournament. There was a concern of rain prior to the tournament, but as usual (outside of the Saturday morning delay), the weather cooperated and allowed us to play a full slate of games. The Parks and Recreation staff did a great job in having the fields ready to go for every game and offered their extra support when needed.
The tournament started on Thursday morning as the Edmonton Prospects took on the Kamloops RiverDogs and ended on the Sunday afternoon with the Chilliwack Cougars taking on the Langley Jr. Blaze in the Championship. The tournament included many Midget teams from both sides of the Rockies participating in 3 pods:
Pod A: Fort Mac Oil Giants Calgary Bandits, Chilliwack Cougars and Coquitlam Reds
Pod B: Edmonton Prospects, Kamloops RiverDogs, Langley Jr. Blaze and Ridge Meadows Royals
Pod C: Badlands Academy, North Shore Twins, Kelowna Sun Devils and White Rock Tritons
With only the top team in each Pod plus one Wild Card team moving into the playoff round, every game played in round robin action was important. Once the dust settled, it was the Chilliwack Cougars ending up as the #1 seed in round robin play, matching up against Wild Card winner Ridge Meadows Royals (Chilliwack edged out the Royals). In the other semifinal, Langley Jr. Blaze defeated the Kelowna Sun Devils in a tight game. The Final was set as Chilliwack and Langley battled for the Trophy, the Cougars securing the Championship behind the pitching of Carter Harbut.
In Bantam action, the tournament also started on the Thursday and went through to the Sunday afternoon. The tournament included 14 teams in total: 3 Pods AAA (10 teams) and 1 Pod AA (4 teams)
Pod A: Kamloops River Dogs, Parkland Twins, Calgary Dinos, and White Rock Tritons
Pod B: Langley Blaze Blue, Victoria M’s and Chilliwack Cougars
Pod C: North Shore Twins, Ridge Meadow Royals and the Okanagan A’s
Pod D: Okotoks Dawgs, Kamloops AA River Dogs, Langley Black and Parksville Royals
This very competitive tournament was well balanced and a great weekend of Pre-Season baseball. After round robin play it was the Parkland Twins, Langley Blaze Blue and North Shore Twins winning their respective Pods along with the White Rock Tritons and Langley Blaze Black advancing to the playoffs as Wild Card teams.
In Playoff action we started with the Wild Card game that was a tight low scoring affair – the Tritons edged the Blaze Black team 2 -1, sending them to a matchup vs. the #1 seeded Langley Blaze Blue. The other semi final matchup had the Twins of Parkland take on the Twins of North Shore – all other teams played a consolation game. It was two good Semifinal games that set up an outstanding final – Parkland Twins took on the Langley Blaze Blue for the Championship. A well played game on both sides that saw the Parkland team take a 2-1 lead into the 7th with 2 out and the Blaze got the 2 RBI walk-off hit from Langley’s Tom Palizoff to win the Championship 3 – 2!
Premier Showcase Weekend;
24 teams that included 10 in the Premier Showcase event and 14 Bantam teams – making Kamloops a busy town once again.
This highly competitive tournament of 10 elite teams included players and teams from throughout Western Canada. Eight Junior National team players were participating with various teams that saw a number of MLB scouts and college recruiters watching along with Team Canada’s Junior National team Head Coach Greg Hamilton in attendance. The goal for the players is to be seen and potentially recruited/scouted or invited to one of our provincial or national events such as the T12 or up their stock in the upcoming MLB June draft.
The 10 teams were broken down into 3 Pods:
Pod A: White Rock Tritons, North Shore Twins and Vauxhall Academy
Pod B: Edmonton Prospects, Coquitlam Reds and Langley Blaze
Pod C: Team BLE, Abbotsford Cardinals, Victoria Mariners and Okotoks Dawgs
The 3 pod winners automatically qualified for next year’s 2019 BOW tournament and were placed into the semi final game with a chance to win this year’s Championship. Those pod winners were the #1 seeded Vauxhall Academy, #2 seeded Okotoks Dawgs and #3 seeded Langley Blaze. The two Wildcard teams (#4 seeded North Shore Twins and #5 seeded Abbotsford Cardinals) played to advance to the Semi vs Vauxhall. The Cardinals were victrious but fell to the Jets, while Okotoks defeated the Blaze in the the other Semi. The battle of Alberta was set for a Sunday morning Championship. A relentless Okotoks Dawgs team scored early and kept the pedal to the metal, eventually crowned 2018 Champions. Congratulations Okotoks!
In qualifying game action, North Shore defeated Victoria and Team BLE knocked off Edmonton.
Due to the standings in this year’s event the following teams qualified for the 2019 Showcase tournament:
- Okotoks Dawgs
- Vauxhall Academy
- Langley Blaze
- Abbottsford Cardinals
- North Shore Twins
- Team BLE
*The avenue for those teams that we’re not able to automatically qualify for the 2019 event – they will have to go to the Fall Qualifier that is scheduled for Sept 20 – 23 in Kamloops, BC.*
Coinciding with the Premier Showcase event was the Bantam Prep/AAA/AA tournament. With 8 teams from throughout Alberta, 3 PBL Prep teams and 3 BC Minor teams, the weekend had a great mixture of competition from throughout the 2 western Provinces. Kamloops’ McArthur Island is setup in such a way that many of the Bantam players were exposed to the Showcase Tournament Scouts/Coaches and Recruiters, creating an amazing environment! It also brought individuals such as Team Canada’s Jr. National team coach Greg Hamilton over to take a look at some of the up and coming talent from the West.
The 14 teams were broken up in 3 Pods of AAA/Prep and 1 Pod of AA teams in which the AA #1 seed moved into the AAA division playoffs. The Pods were broken down as such;
Pod A: Calgary Cubs, Abbotsford Angels and Edmonton Prospects
Pod B: Lethbridge Bulls, Calgary Dino’s and Coquitlam Reds
Pod C: Okotoks Dawgs, Victoria M’s, Kelowna Sun Devils and Cloverdale Spurs
Pod D: Lethbridge Bulls, Calgary Cubs, Sherwood Park A’s and Prince George Knights
After round robin play it was the Edmonton Prospects, Calgary Dinos and Victoria Eagles winning their respective Pods with the Cloverdale Spurs being the Wild Card team that matched up to play the AA Division winners Prince George Knights. In that Wild Card game, it was Cloverdale defeating Prince George which set up the Semi Final matchups. The #1 seed Victoria Eagles took on the Cloverdale Spurs and the #2 seeded Edmonton Prospects taking on the #3 seeded Calgary Dinos. It was the Eagles and Prospects that went on Championship game that saw timely hitting and strong pitching by the Victoria Eagles, allowing them to hold off a feisty Prospects team to take home the Championship and the coveted bucket hats!
THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO ATTENDED THE “BEST OF THE WEST” TOURNAMENTS AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOUR TEAMS PARTICIPATE IN THE FUTURE!!! GOOD LUCK THIS SEASON FROM THE BLE!!