Future looks bright for young Bantam AAA Chuckers

Baseball team slated to have half off its roster returning in 2013 after encouraging performance at provincial championships

In about three weeks time Alex Klenman will be reminded again of what exactly his baseball team accomplished this season.

That's when the Richmond Bantam "AAA" Chuckers will launch their fall campaign - an assortment of training sessions, exhibition games and tournaments - that serve as a key transitional stage for next spring's league play. Typically it is also the beginning of an extensive rebuilding phase with no more than the three players back in the fold.

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Not this time.

When Klenman and his coaching staff finalized their 2012 roster in February, they rolled the dice by naming a whopping seven first-year players to the 14-member team. It was considered somewhat of a bold decision that could result in a turbulent ride when Richmond was assured a berth in the provincial championships as the host team.

"You know, we could have gone with a couple of more second-year players," reflected Klenman. "But we had been blessed with a solid group of first-year kids and there was too much upside not to go that way."

The longtime manager was rewarded with his roll of the dice by Richmond putting together a solid enough regular season to finish seventh (22-19) and earn a B.C. berth on its own. The Chuckers then proceeded take the season to their final round-robin game on Saturday afternoon where an 8-0 loss to the eventual champion Vancouver Mounties at Blundell Park sealed their fate.

When all was said and done, the 10-team championship tournament went almost true to form with the three pre-tourney favourites dominating from start to finish.

Unfortunately, that meant a tough road for the Chuckers with Abbotsford Angels (36-5) and the Mounties (33-8-1) on their side of the draw.

Richmond stumbled out of the gate, surrendering six runs through two innings in a 7-1 loss to Abbotsford.

However, the locals rebounded nicely Friday morning with a surprising 15-5 romp over Victoria Red, thanks to a 17hit attack. The bats remained alive in a 9-1 victory against Cloverdale Red, setting the stage for Saturday afternoon's do-or-die affair against Vancouver.

The Chuckers had lost all three regular season meetings to the Mounties and the city team's dominance continued when it mattered the most.

Vancouver struck for a pair of runs in the top of the first and that proved to be more than enough for winning pitcher Taylor Wright who limited the hosts to just one hit.

"First-year bats are not going to overcome second-year pitchers who are throwing that well," said Klenman. "That's just the way it works at this level. It's the experience in that kind of pressure packed game that the kids will learn from and be better ball players for it."

The Chuckers can take solace from their win over a Victoria team that they did not beat in the regular season and was coming off a big upset of Vancouver.

"That was a real pivotal moment for our team," added Klenman. "It was a daunting task that could have ended our hopes right there with a second loss and we would have been out of it on Friday morning. The kids really stepped up to at least put us in a position where the Vancouver game meant everything."

The Mounties, who have just three first-years in the roster, defeated Nanaimo 8-3 in the semi-finals, then edged Abbotsford 6-5 in the championship game.

mbooth@richmond-news.com

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