It took until Sunday but the Prince George IDL Midget Knights were finally able to blast away their jitters at the 2012 Western Canada Midget double-A championship in Morden, Man.
After opening the five-team tournament with three straight losses the Knights ended on a high note by laying a 17-6 pounding on the Morden Wild (1-3). Unfortunately, by that time Prince George was already out of the playoff picture, finishing with a 1-3 record.
For Knights coach Todd Patterson it was nice to leave the southern Manitoba town, famous for its corn and apples, with a win after a couple of close losses and a disappointing effort in a 9-5 loss in the opening game Friday.
"The kids were a bit more relaxed," said Patterson. "I think in the game against Saskatchewan they were a bit nervous and it showed. There were some errors and just not sharp pitching and we didn't have great hitting and just overall not great execution to play as well as we could."
The Knights had a 4-2 and then 5-4 advantage over the Swift Current Indians (2-2) despite the errors but everything fell apart in the sixth inning as the Saskatchewan team scored several runs on their way to the 9-5 win.
Prince George was in both Saturday games but wound up on the losing side of a 4-3 loss to Altona of Manitoba before falling in an extra inning to Alberta's Acme Red Sox. Altona (5-0) won the championship with a 12-3 win over the Red Sox (2-3).
"We had one-run games against both of them so we were right there for sure," said Patterson.
In both games the Knights received stellar complete-game pitching efforts from Jared Young and pickup Nick Demak, from the Tsawwassen A's, but couldn't produce the run support.
Against Altona the Knights actually held a 3-0 lead but the Manitoba champs but saw it slip away. In the seventh, and final, inning Altona scored two runs for the 4-3 lead and the Knights were unable to answer back in the bottom half of the inning.
In the 3-2 loss to the Red Sox, the Alberta team was able to cash in one of their runs during the extra inning while the Knights were not. The extra inning was played under international rules where runners are placed on first and second base with no outs and each team has to try and get them home.
The inability to cash in runners was nothing new as the Knights left the bases loaded three times against the Red Sox, squandering Demak's pitching effort.
"He pitched awesome," said Patterson. "We just didn't support him with any runs. We had way more base runners then them, we just didn't cash them in."
The loss killed the Knights dreams of a Western Canadian title but they saved their best for the finale jumping out to an 11-0 lead as they humbled their hosts 17-6. Reg Barry, Cory McCoy, a pickup from Kelowna, and Brandon Graham kept the Wild off-balance with their pitches while the offence, led by Young's two-run homer, caught fire.
Sunday's win was the final midget game in the careers of: Barry, Graham, Jody Hannon, Keefer Zohner, Jarrett Potskin, Jordan Patterson and Brody Wicki.
The team planned to enjoy the sights of Winnipeg today before flying home Tuesday morning.