Red Birds flying high
St. Albert bantam AAA baseball team undefeated in 11 games
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Jun 21, 2014 06:00 am
The St. Albert Cardinals are peaking towards provincials as the victories continue to mount for the bantam AAA team.
The Red Birds are 13-3 in the provincial round of the Baseball Alberta schedule and 16-9 overall after downing the Sherwood Park Athletics 8-2 Tuesday for their 11th straight victory.
“We’ve really been moving up since the season started,” said pitcher Tylor Jans, who has racked up five wins this year.
“We just have to keep on playing good and get the wins,” added southpaw Ross Supruniuk. “We’ve been improving through practice and hard work. We’re just getting the job done.”
Under the direction of dugout boss Dave Maguire, the Baseball Alberta 2012 Ted Rudd coach-of-the-year award recipient, and his coaching staff the Cardinals overcame an injury-riddled season debut to join the Okotoks Black Dawgs and Spruce Grove White Sox as Tier 1 provincial contenders.
“We just have to continue what we’ve been doing,” Jans said. “Our defence is keeping up with us. Our pitching has done great. We’re starting to swing the bat pretty good and everyone is getting on base.”
The Cardinals roughed up the defending provincial champions from Sherwood Park for six runs in the opening inning and Zach Froment, last year’s peewee AAA player of the year in the province, was a tower of power on the mound with 91 pitches to record the win at Legion Memorial Park.
“Our pitching was really good and to start off the game with six runs really helped,” Jans said.
Last weekend at home the Cardinals polished off the Red Deer Braves in three games and edged the White Sox 6-5.
“Everything was going good for us,” Jans said.
Supruniuk started Saturday’s lid-lifter and struck-out seven over six innings and Joseph Karall registered the save in the 10-8 contest.
Supruniuk is rounding back into form as one of the top pitchers in the province after spraining his ankle at first base while legging out a single to kick off the season.
“I’ve been trying to get my control down,” said the Grade 9 Vincent J. Maloney student who alternates between a four-seem and two-seam fastball while deploying a curveball and changeup to mow down batters.
Dan Tkachyk collected three hits and Jans and Peter Corrigan had multiple RBIs.
In the second tilt Jans fired a complete game two-hitter while fanning six batters in the 6-2 triumph. It marked the fourth time Jans went the distance this year.
“I was just throwing the ball good and hitting my spots in the zone,” said Jans of his 75-pitch effort against the same team that lit him up last year during a rocky outing that featured a lack of defensive support behind him.
This year the Grade 9 Lorne Akins student has emerged as a reliable starter with a mixture of fastballs, changeups and curveballs.
“All I’m trying to do is help lead the team and show the first years what to do,” said Jans, who also plays shortstop and patrols the outfield.
Supruniuk and Froment chipped in offensively with two RBIs apiece.
Sunday the Cardinals completed the three-game sweep as Cole Seitz tossed four innings and Karall closed out the 4-2 win with three shutout innings.
Greg Student, a Grande Prairie product who qualified for next month’s Alberta Summer Games in track and field, and Colton Girard contributed two hits apiece.
In the last game of the weekend against a White Sox team that lost only once in the provincial round the Cardinals dialed up five runs in the bottom of the fourth to lead 5-3.
Corrigan, Froment and Student toed the runner, with Froment credited with the win and Student earning the save.
Supruniuk, a first baseman when he isn’t throwing strikes, Girard, Karall and Tkachyk drove in runs.
With the second half of the season underway the Cardinals will continue building towards provincials. Last year they finished the championship weekend at 1-3.
“We’re doing better this year than we did last year. Our defence is a lot better and so is our hitting too,” said Jans, 15, a bantam AAA defenceman with the St. Albert Sabres last season.
The 13-man roster features six returnees, including five pitchers.
“We have more leaders this year because we have more returning players. We’re a stronger team too because we have more returning players and the first years are good players too,” said Supruniuk, 15, one of 11 Cardinals who can pitch.
Tonight the Cardinals are up to bat against the red-hot midget AA Cardinals (18-1-1) in an exhibition doubleheader at 6 and 8:30 p.m. at Legion park.
The next league game is Tuesday versus SEEBA at 7 p.m. in St. Albert.
Next weekend the Cardinals are in Okotoks for the Canada Day tournament and in the round robin they play the Regina Buffalos, Saskatoon Blue Jays and Muenster Red Sox.