Winning the 2011 B.C. midget AAA baseball championship wasn't easy for the Kamloops Player's Bench RiverDogs.
They are under no illusions that it will be any easier this year.
The RiverDogs are 6-2 in B.C. midget AAA action after splitting four weekend games at Canada Games Field.
Kamloops beat Chilliwack 7-4 on Saturday, before the Cougars came back to win 13-8 in the nightcap. The Vancouver Mounties beat the RiverDogs 5-3 on Sunday morning, but Kamloops managed a 12-1 victory to finish the weekend.
There won't be any easy weekends for the RiverDogs this year, after they surprised a lot of people by winning the provincial championship at NorBrock Stadium in August.
A total of 13 players are back from that team, which should make it the favourite this season.
"Other teams are targeting us, being the provincial champs," said James Arko, a third-year outfielder. "They all want to take us, but we're a solid squad."
The 2011 season was pretty special for the RiverDogs, who went 27-15 to finish third in the regular season. They also finished second at their home Daley and Co. Canada Day Classic in July, and then went 4-1 in winning provincials.
With all that in the past, the RiverDogs aren't taking anything for granted this season, hustling like any of the previous 12 RiverDogs teams coached by Sean Wandler.
"Coming back as defending provincial champs, sometimes you want to coast and take it easy," said Wandler, who was named the Kamloops Sports Council's 2011 coach of the year earlier this month. "We made the commitment early that that won't happen.
"When we finish our games, we're bloody, we're dirty and we'll do it the next weekend, too."
Kamloops had a great start to its weekend, scoring six first-inning runs and holding on to beat Chilliwack 7-4. Mike Gilfillan pitched six innings in the victory, with Jackson Lowes locking down the seventh.
Colin Rintoul had an excellent game, hitting his second home run of the season to go along with three singles and three RBI. Connor Kozak had a single, two doubles, an RBI and a run, while Arko had two singles, scored a run and stole two bases.
Saturday's second game wasn't as much fun for the RiverDogs, who fell behind 11-2 early. Tyler Cousineau pitched the first two innings, allowing nine runs, with Jake Harris allowing four runs in four innings and Arko pitching a scoreless seventh.
"Our pitcher struggled early, and they just jumped on us," Wandler said.
Kyle Pouncy, Steven Rintoul and Colton Thompson each hit two singles and drove in a run, with Rintoul also walking once and scoring twice and Thompson drawing a walk and scoring a run.
Thompson started Sunday's opening loss, allowing one run in five innings, Pouncy allowed four runs in relief, taking the loss, and Arko also pitched.
Dylan Luison had a single and drove in a run on a sacrifice fly, while Blayne Halland also hit a single and brought home a run. Cousineau singled and scored a run.
"We just didn't take care of the baseball," Wandler said. "Their pitcher threw very well, and we left a lot of guys on base."
The RiverDogs were all over Vancouver in Sunday's second game, scoring twice in the first and fourth innings, with a pair of four-run innings sandwiched between. Winning pitcher Leyton Edye went five innings in the game, which was shortened due to the mercy rule.
Gilfillan scored three runs, walked twice, stole a pair of bases and drove in a run, with Kozak and Colin Rintoul each ending with a single, a double and two RBI. Rintoul also scored two runs.
The RiverDogs will hit the road for their next games. They will play Tri-City on Saturday and Chilliwack on Sunday.
It's all part of a 36-game regular season, which also has a pair of tournaments thrown in, including this year's Canada Day Classic, which runs June 29 to July 2.
The RiverDogs are confident . . . just not too confident.
"Everyone has the mindset that this is a good team," Arko said. "We know how to play baseball and win, and as long as we keep working, we should do well."