The Carnduff Astros have enjoyed a lot of success since the team’s inception about 15 years ago, highlighted by two provincial titles.
But until this season, they had never won the Jack Harbourne Memorial Tournament, which crowns the Saskota Baseball League champions each year.
The Astros defeated the Arcola Threshers 15-4 on July 28 at Kenosee Lake to win the tournament. It was one of the more unlikely championships in league history, as the Astros were the fifth-ranked team in the league during the regular season with a 6-8-2 record, while the Threshers finished seventh at 4-10-2.
“It’s a great thing,” said Astros player Kelby Trimble, who was a co-founder of the team around 2004. “There are a few of our guys that have been chasing it for a lot of years, and we just had a great weekend of baseball.”
The Harbourne opened with a round robin. The top four teams in the regular season had their games at home on July 26. Then the tournament shifted to Kenosee on July 27 and 28 for the final round robin games and the playoffs.
Each team went 2-1 in the round robin; in the Astros case, they opened with a 7-6 victory over the Redvers A’s on July 26 in Redvers. They lost 7-6 to the Oxbow Chiefs, who were the top-ranked team in the league during the regular season, and then edged the Kenosee Cubs 3-2 in the final round robin game to qualify for the semis.
Arcola knocked off the Chiefs in one semifinal. (Score was not available). The Astros, meanwhile, edged the two-time defending league champions, the Estevan Tap House Wolves, 2-1 in the other semi.
“There were a lot of good things, over the weekend, that we did,” said Trimble. “One big thing was staying positive. Even when you made an error or you struck out, there was always somebody there to pick you up.”
In the final, the Astros were riding a high after beating the Wolves. According to Trimble, Estevan played great defensively and received great pitching in the semifinal game.
“That was the big difference going into the final, was that everyone was really confident, and we were playing as a team,” he said.
Against the better teams they faced in the tournament, he said the Astros came up big offensively and played error-free ball defensively.
Trimble noted that throughout the years, the Astros have had a lot of good players going, and on paper, thought they had a good chance to win the Harbourne tournament. But the last time they were in the league final, in 2006 or 2007, they were still using aluminium bats.
“Winning this league was one thing I wanted to do before I stepped away,” he said.
Provincial titles came in 2010 and 2014.
And while they were under .500 during the regular season this year, the Astros scored more runs than they allowed.
“We had … five guys that played their first year of senior baseball this year,” said Trimble.
The Astros never had their full lineup together until late in the season, because the veterans weren’t always there. The young players had to learn a lot at the beginning of the year, and made some mistakes that changed games.
Once the full lineup was in place, the team started coming together.
“We had a lot of close games against the top four teams. We didn’t play so great against the bottom end teams, but our biggest goal was to make the Harbourne tournament this year.”
And as this year showed, once teams get to the Harbourne, anything can happen.