By Dale Woodard
Southern Alberta Newspapers — Lethbridge
The Lethbridge ‘AAA’ Intermediate Bulls which feature Taberite Carson Cleland are headed back to the west coast and flying the Alberta flag in the process.
Facing Calgary District 8 in the final of the Little League Intermediate Divisionals for Alberta Sunday afternoon at ATSO Towawwa Park, the Bulls posted a 13-3 win to cap off a weekend of undefeated ball and earn another trip to Langley, B.C. for the Intermediate National Championships, July 20-27 as the Alberta representatives.
The winner of the National Championships next week will keep playing further into the summer as the Team Canada representative at the Little League Intermediate World Series in Livermore, CA.
The win marks a return trip to Nationals for the Bulls, but for a few team members who did their part in Sunday’s provincial-clinching victory, this will be their first glimpse of the national event.
That includes Bulls pitcher and third baseman Braeden Sheppard.
“I’m feeling good because it’s my first year going to Langley,” said the 13-year-old following the team’s post-game photo session with the Alberta banner. “I think it’s going to be pretty exciting.”
The Bulls earned a berth in Sunday’s final thanks to a 28-1 win over the Calgary representative Friday night.
Despite the 10-run difference in the final, Bulls head coach Denny Puszcar noted a close game.
“It was actually a pretty tight game, overall,” he said. “They had a really good arm on their mound and she did a really good job of keeping us in check a little bit. We had some excited nerves. So it was a tight one. Our boys did a really good job persevering through this one because they had some nerves going into this one. So I’m really proud how they reacted.”
“It took a lot of hard work,” added Sheppard.
“We came out kind of soft and then we got on the sticks and the pitching came out strong, too.”
The win closed the books on a 3-0 weekend on home soil at ATSO Towawwa Park for the Bulls, who opened the weekend with a 21-6 win over Medicine Hat Thursday night.
“They were outstanding this weekend,” said Puszcar. “They are so coachable. They buy into everything we tell them. They’re fantastic and a pleasure to coach.”
This year’s District 1 Bulls team features players from Taber, Picture Butte and the Lethbridge area. Coaches on staff include Taber’s Cam Cleland and Vauxhall Academy of Baseball’s Les McTavish.
“We have eight boys who are from Southwest Little League and three from Norcrest Little League,” said Puszcar. “So it’s been great having that mix come in together. They’ve gotten along well from day one and have really bonded. It’s been outstanding.”
Now, Langley beckons and if all goes well on the west coast it’s off to California for the Little League Intermediate World Series, which has hosted Lethbridge teams in 2013 and 2016.
“Really excited. It’s an awesome experience,” said Puszcar. “We were lucky enough to go last year to Vancouver for the Major Nationals. It’s just so much fun. The kids get a kick out of it and we love it, too. It means a lot to us coaches to be there. I’m really looking forward to it.”