St. Albert midget AAA team is 43-14 overall after winning the Baseball Alberta Tier I championship for a berth at nationals
Wednesday, Aug 06, 2014 11:15 am
The St. Albert Cardinals finished what they started last year to win the Baseball Alberta midget AAA Tier I championship.
After letting last year’s final slip away in dramatic fashion the Cardinals refused to lose Monday’s final with a trip to nationals on the line.
“It’s so exciting after last year having that heartbreaking loss in Okotoks (11-10 to Okotoks Dawgs Red) when we got up early and we just couldn't finish it, so to finish it here at home in front of all of our fans and friends and family is just surreal,” said a jacked-up Connor Burns, the team’s power hitter and emotional leader, after the Red Birds drilled the Sherwood Park Dukes 8-1 at Legion Memorial Park. “We were ready to come out here and win today that’s for sure.”
The team to beat at provincials will now go for the gold at nationals, Aug. 14 to 18 in Magog, Que. after winning its first Baseball Alberta title since 2008.
“We came in here No. 1 (at 26-5 in the NorWest league) and we came out of here No. 1 and now we’re going to Quebec and we’re going to be No. 1 there too,” said Burns, one of 11 returning Cardinals from last year’s gold-medal triumph at westerns. “This team has so much potential to grow as a group and to be that much better and we’ve got a great chance to go out and win a national championship.”
The Cardinals are a wicked 43-14 overall after their tremendous performance against the Dukes. They out-hit the Dukes 9-5, pulled off some incredible defensive plays and in the top of the seventh erupted for five runs on three hits against three pitchers to lead by seven with three outs to go.
“We played our asses off throughout the whole thing,” said shortstop Austin Watamaniuk, the tournament MVP. “It was really close until the last inning, then we built up a big lead and that’s when we knew we had it.”
Tanner Karpinski threw six solid innings to earn player of the game honours for the Cardinals. He allowed one run on five hits, walked four and struck-out one on 94 pitches before switching positions with second-baseman Mat Brisson in the bottom of the seventh.
“Tanner just showed up. This is his fourth year (on the team), it’s his last game as a Cardinal and he made it memorable,” said Burns, who anchored third base in the win.
Karpinski, 18, was satisfied with his effort on the hill.
“I thought I did all right. I was struggling through pitches but I got the job done,” said the right-hander who will by-pass nationals because of commitments with Garden City Community College in Kansas. “It was pretty nerve-wracking but I’ve been there before. Last year I had to pitch in the finals and it didn’t turn out so well so I had a chance at redemption I guess and I made the best of it.”
The Cardinals led 3-0 after three innings. Brisson scored from third on a passed ball in the first. In the third Jake Fischer drew a walk with the bases loaded to score Brisson and the next batter, Matty Quartel, reached first on a fielder’s choice as Burns scored.
In the bottom half of the inning the Dukes scored their lone run on two hits and left one player on base. The Dukes also left two runners in the next two innings in large part to defensive gems by Watamaniuk in the infield in the fourth and Quartel in left field in the fifth.
In the seventh with one out Erik Sabrowski’s RBI single scored Watamaniuk from second and Burns made it 5-1 on a passed ball. Fischer’s ground-rule double over the centre-field fence brought home Sabrowski. As the Dukes’ pitching woes continued, Dylan Gates was hit by a pitch with the bases load to score Fischer. Quartel scored the team’s last run of the inning as Evan Loranger reached base on a fielder’s choice.
An excited Brisson closed out the seventh as the Dukes loaded the bases before grounding out to Watamaniuk, who touched second base for the final out as the Cardinals rushed the mound in celebration.
“I’ve been imagining this feeling for a number of years now,” Watamaniuk said while clutching his MVP trophy.
Throughout the tournament he was exceptional batting third and holding the infield together like a magician.
“This award is the icing on the cake for me to do that well for the team. It’s a great feeling,” said Watamaniuk, 16, who batted 3-for-4 with a single, double and triple while driving home three runs and scored three times in Sunday’s 8-5 semifinal victory over the Calgary Dinos, ranked second in the NorWest league at 24-5.
The Dinos made it interesting with four runs on four hits and two Cardinals’ errors in the bottom of the seventh before Burns got the third out on a pop up to Brisson with two players on base.
Burns, 18, allowed one earned run while giving up eight hits. He fanned five and walked one in the complete-game decision.
“I just tried to get ahead a lot with my fastball and I just used a lot of off-speed on the middle of the order guys,” said the team’s player of the game who batted 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
The Cardinals put up three-spots in the first and second innings to lead 6-1 entering the third.
In pool play the Cardinals finished 2-1 after strangling SEEBA 11-3. Taran Oulton worked 6-2/3 innings while surrendering nine hits. He struck-out five and walked one to earn the team’s player of the game award.
Loranger, 18, sparked the team’s 11-hit attack with three singles and one double while driving in four runs batting leadoff.
It was a must-win game for the Cardinals after the Spruce Grove White Sox cleared the bases with a double with two out in the bottom of the seventh to erase a two-run deficit in Friday’s 5-4 victory.
“We knew it was do or die so we came in pretty fired up. We were ready to get going,” said Loranger, who patrols centrefield. “It was a good overall team effort; pitching and offence and really good defence too. We threw a bunch of guys out at the plate (Quartel from left field and Brisson on a relay from Loranger).”
The White Sox left the Cardinals teetering on the brink after Oulton replaced starter Jackson Wark after his 94th pitch in the game and the bases loaded with two out.
“It was just a heartbreaker: a double over the leftfielder’s head and all three runs scored,” Loranger said. “After the game we were like we can’t dwell on this. It’s in the past. We’ve got to go win the next one. That’s the main game; we’ve got to win if we want to go anywhere in this tournament.”
FOUL BALLS: The Cardinals mercied Fort McMurray10-0 in six innings in Friday’s tournament opener. Gates struck-out eight while going the distance. Burns had three RBIs.
In the third-place game Monday the Dinos edged the White Sox 8-7 in eight innings.
Visit www.baseballalberta.com or stalbertbaseball.com for the tournament scores and stats.