They have important playoff games on the horizon. Given that fact, the Pacific Western Helicopters Knights picked the perfect time to reach new heights of success.
The 13- and 14-year-old Knights, an all-star team from the Prince George Youth Baseball Association, ran to a championship title at the Bantam A Steve Murray Tournament in Pitt Meadows on the weekend. Along the way, the Knights outscored their opponents 52-4, including a 9-0 win against Ridge Meadows in the final.
"It's huge for their confidence," said Gary Allbee, manager of the single-A Knights. "The last couple years we've played double-A and haven't been very successful at all. And we're definitely a single-A team as far as numbers go. This is the first year we've tried it and we seem to be doing very well at it. I think once we get into provincials, we'll be right where we belong."
The BC Minor Baseball bantam single-A provincials are Aug. 2-6 in Kamloops and will feature 10 teams. To qualify for the tournament, the Knights must first get past Quesnel in a best-of-three zone playoff, which will start July 17 at Prince George's Rotary Field.
In the Steve Murray tournament final against Ridge Meadows, Myles Kazakoff started the Knights off perfectly when he smacked a leadoff home run. By the end of the first inning, Prince George had a 4-0 lead. The Knights extended their advantage as the game progressed and got stellar pitching from Bryan Allbee. The hard-throwing Allbee offered up an untouchable mix of fastballs and curves and finished with a complete-game no-hitter and 11 strikeouts. Kazakoff was picked as Prince George's player of the game.
In the semifinal round, the Knights beat the BC Bantam Female Selects 11-1. Starting pitcher Dakota Curry -- the game MVP for Prince George -- went the distance and fanned 13 batters.
In pool play, the Knights downed Rutland 7-2, dumped Coquitlam 13-0 and beat Chilliwack 12-1.
Against Rutland, Curry started and finished the game on the mound and had 10 strikeouts. He also went 2-for-3 at the plate and was his team's game MVP.
The win against Coquitlam was a memorable one, as pitchers Bryan Allbee and Keiran Leboe combined for 15 strikeouts and a perfect game. The contest was shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
"They pitched great," Gary Allbee said of his son and Leboe. "The team that we played was a Little League team so I believe they were age 12 and 13 and we didn't know that until the game was over. I still don't want to take anything away from what the kids did because it was still phenomenal pitching."
Offensively, Kazakoff hammered a grand slam home run and Bailey Mcfaul also went deep. Bryan Allbee, with 11 strikeouts in 3.2 innings, was chosen as the Knights' top player.
In their final game before playoffs, the Knights chopped down Chilliwack 12-1. Pitchers Koltin Chasse and Craig Budskin kept the Chilliwack offence nearly silent and Budskin picked up game MVP honours.
Throughout the eight-team tournament, Knights pitchers allowed only three walks.
"They threw lots of strikes," Gary Allbee said. "It was really good."
Other team members are Danny Rockwell, Ethan Donison, Mathew Knight, Dylan Lukinchuk and Tanner Riplinger. Dean Kazakoff is on the coaching staff.
The Knights will be back on the diamond this weekend, this time in Kelowna. There, they will swing their bats in the double-A division of the Valley of Champions tournament.