Jays struggle in first flight but land one

It took a couple games for Trail Jays to fully get their hands and eyes on the ball but once they got into the swing of things, they finished their first tournament of 2011 strong, rallying to win their final game.

After dropping the first three games at the Canadian Days American Legion tournament in Kalispell on the weekend, the Jays saved their best effort for last, beating Sherwood Park 15-4.

“We put the pressure on them big time, once we hit the ball a couple times and had runners in scoring position, the other team kind of folded,” said manager Nick Combo.

Gerry Rebalato and Sean Barta led the way, each going 2 for 3, with Brady Glover and Jarret Conway knocking in a couple runs each.

Garrett Kucher got the win going four strong innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits and fanning four batters. Pitcher Geoff Soukeroff pitched one perfect inning of relief and contributed to the offense by going 1 for 2 with a triple in the fifth.

In the first game against Edmonton “AA” the Trail team was leading 3-2 going into the fifth inning, when walks and errors cost them the lead and eventual game.

“It was the first real live game situation they’ve had other than house ball, so I think that played a factor, because some of the other teams that we played had already been in 10 to15 games,” said Combo.

Nerves plagued them again in a slugfest with Whitefish, Mont. Glacier Twins in which the Jays committed six unforced errors, en route to an 11-9 loss.

Still, Combo was pleased with the offensive output, as rookie pitcher Dallas Calvin pounded a home run and drove in three runs to make it close. Kyle Paulson and Garrett Kucher also contributed at the plate both going 2 for 3, with Paulson picking up a pair of doubles.

“If we were able to limit those errors and the amount of walks, that game would have been a different story,” he added.

The third game against the strong host Kalispell Lakers team ended in a 15-8 loss. The Lakers took a first inning lead and never looked back, scoring 10 runs in the third to put it out of reach.

“We hit the ball well that game we just didn’t pitch it very well.”

Despite some early blips, Combo is optimistic. He is particularly pleased with the scrappy effort the offense generated throughout the lineup and is counting on pitching to perform well also.

“It looks pretty good . . . we got a young group pitching wise, but it’s pretty diverse. We have several left handed pitchers that are going to be pretty helpful this year and some right-handed arms that are going to help out too.”

Most of all, the first-year manager likes the attitude of the players and how they responded in the final game.

“You could tell that the guys were really upset about not playing the way they should be, so it was good to see that our guys really cared about winning.”

The Jays play a pair of double headers on the weekend. Saturday, they play the Cranbrook Bandits at 1 p.m. at Butler Park and Sunday the Jays face the Colville 49ers at 3 p.m.