The Cochrane Crush pulled off a spectacular semi-final miracle comeback to propel them to a championship win in the Prairie Little League Championships Aug. 4 to Aug. 6 right here in Cochrane.
The Major AA Crush, who hosted the province-wide tournament, kicked off the round robin by powering through their first two games. In the Crush’s opening act against the Brooks Bombers, Cochrane won handily 16-6 before forcing another mercy rule victory with a 14-4 win over Medicine Hat, propelling the hosts into the semi-finals as the top seeded team in their pool.
In the semi-finals on Aug. 5, the Crush would face second-place Regina, in what was their toughest game of the tournament. Cochrane was down 12-1 at one point in the game with their championship hopes looking slim, but the team managed to put up nine runs in the final inning to come away with a spectacular 14-13 come-from-behind-victory and then capped off their undefeated tournament by once again beating Brooks 12-0 in a mercy rule game.
Crush head coach Brian Alford said his team was committed throughout the tournament and said winning the title was the perfect way to cap off Cochrane’s season, especially after the team had placed second at last year’s tournament.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group. We have a special group of kids and the heart that they showed to get there was amazing … they worked so hard to get to where they did,” Alford said.
“It’s basically been the same group of kids from April until now and to be able to finish off a championship season with a win … I’m sure it’s something none of us will ever forget. Especially the way we did it, coming back from a huge deficit on our own home turf, I couldn’t feel anymore gratified ending it the way that we did.”
Alford also highlighted the 11 run comeback against Regina as one of the bigger moments in the tournament as he said his kids showed great resiliency and mental toughness.
“The one thing we worked on for the last two weeks prior to the tournament was mental toughness and that was something we reminded them of before every single game,” Alford said.
“I’d ask them what’s the difference between the team over there and us? We made sure everyone was laser focused and ready to go on every single pitch that comes our way … that’s how we’re going to overcome and win. We’re going to be locked in and focused on every single play and that’s how we did it.”
“I’ve never seen a comeback like that in all my years of coaching and all my years of sports in general … I had never seen a comeback of that magnitude and it was incredible.”
Alford said the victory in the last game was just a reward for how hard his team worked over the course of the season.
“Practise and hard work were big reasons why we successful. We practised three times a week for two-and-a-half to three hours each night and even on off days, we have the kids hitting balls and playing catch on their own,” Alford said.
“They just worked incredibly hard and kept building towards the common goal of winning this tournament. Hitting and pitching had continuous improvements throughout the year which makes it that much more fun. We had some great coaches as well in Blake Morris and Mike Kerr, who are both hitting experts to make sure the kids were ready to go. It made for such a fun season.”
The Crush head coach said he was also very impressed with how well the tournament was run by organizer Sasha Pike and all the volunteers who handled any and all adversity that might have come their way.
“It was extremely well run. Sasha (Pike) was the tournament organizer and she had everything run like clockwork. Every detail down to a tee, you name it. First aid, food trucks, pitch count, posting scores, awards, field maintenance … all the kids had to do was show up and focus on their games,” said Alford.
“Sometimes people take this stuff for granted and think these things just magically come together. Someone has to take charge of that and it was Sasha along with the parents off the Cochrane team who helped fill in when they were called upon.”
Pike was in agreement with Alford, saying the tournament ran without a hitch.
“The tournament went very smoothly. We were on time, the parent volunteers were really great to work with and really stepped up to ensure that Cochrane was well represented. All teams persevered playing through the rain that we received on the weekend so we could remain on schedule so that was really nice for us as well,” Pike said.
“Cochrane Minor Ball has received many compliments on how well organized this tournament was and that we did a great job overall.”
The Cochrane Minor Crush Tier 1 team was also victorious this weekend when they topped Foothills 7-4 in the tournament finals that took place in Medicine Hat.