The Trail AAA Jays returned from a tough six-game-in-three-days road trip to wrap up the North Idaho American Legion league and prepare for the District championship this weekend in Coeur d’Alene.
The team was originally scheduled to play Friday but rain pushed the games to Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, stretching the Jays number of pitching arms to the maximum.
The Jays played two games against each of their division rivals, dropping all six games by scores of 9-1 and 11-5 against Lewis-Clark Twins, 14-4 and 16-13 against Coeur d’Alene Lumbermen, and 9-1 and 3-2 to the Prairie Cardinals.
“We were in some of the games, but what hurt us was free bases that we gave up, whether it was errors or walks, and that kind of hurt us,” said coach Nick Combo.
In the close loss to the Lumbermen, the Jays out-hit CDA 15 to seven, but committing four errors and giving up 10 walks was the difference.
“We hit the ball extremely well, but just couldn’t play defence very well . . . we usually have a pretty strong pitching staff but the extended weekend we had to use a lot of guys and it physically took its toll. We went through about every pitcher we had on the staff.”
The Jays will have to shore up its defence if it wants to compete in districts. In its 11 wins this year the Jays average just over one error per game, while in its last 10 losses they averaged three errors per match.
“I think if we play defensively well, I think it will keep us in the ball game. Our hitting has been there for the most part, and if we play well defensively it is going to keep us in a position where we can score some runs, be ahead in the game and win.”
The Jays head into Districts as the fourth ranked team, with Couer d’Alene number one, Prairie number two, and Lewistion third ranked. The NIAL District winner will go to the State championship in Lewiston in August.
“We’re going to have to play collectively well,” said Combo. “At district time, it’s really anybody’s ball game – it’s nine innings now – so if we can come up ready to play defensively, offensively, have everything clicking all at once, I think we can compete pretty well.”