The St. Albert Cardinals went down swinging at the Baseball Alberta midget AAA Tier I championship at Legion Memorial Park.
The Cardinals struck-out 11 times in Tuesday’s 6-1 semifinal loss to the Parkland Twins as southpaw Adam Macko handcuffed the top Norwest league team on four hits without issuing a walk during the six-inning gem.
Parkland will represent Alberta at the U18 Baseball Canada championship, Aug. 17 to 29 at London, Ont., after beating the Sherwood Park Athletics 5-0 in the final as Ben Erwin fanned nine and walked four while surrendering three hits in the complete game shutout.
The consolation prize as provincial finalists for Sherwood Park was a trip to westerns this weekend in Winnipeg.
The story behind the story at provincials was the eligibility of Macko and Erwin with the Spruce Grove-based team. Both are listed on the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball 2016/17 roster.
“They’re Spruce Grove kids but they haven’t been playing in the (Norwest) league all year so when the other teams caught wind that these two were going to be on the roster Baseball Alberta started receiving calls saying ‘hey, how can this happen,’ that kind of stuff,” said Kurtus Millar, tournament director at provincials and the St. Albert Minor Baseball Association president.
“The Baseball Alberta registrar (Darren Dekinder, who is also the executive director) approved the rosters and then he was umpiring in the Canada Summer Games so it was very difficult to get a hold of him,” Millar added.
“There is no rule in the Baseball Alberta handbook that says anything about players not being able to join the roster. These kids were registered through Baseball Alberta throughout the season, they just hadn’t played so there is some controversy there. There is a few different spots in the Baseball Alberta handbook where it’s in a grey area so before the pre-tournament package went out to the teams there was a paragraph added in there.”
According to Millar, the paragraph read: “All players that appear on each team’s provincial roster have been approved by Baseball Alberta and are eligible to compete in the 2017 midget AAA provincial championship. Each of these rosters were properly submitted in accordance with league rules. Any issues regarding player eligibility must be dealt with prior to the start of the tournament. Please note that Norwest midget AAA league has no rules regarding minimum number of plate appearances or innings pitched in league play to be eligible for provincial championship play. Protests regarding player eligibility will not be accepted on the field during any provincial championship game,” Millar said. “So they kind of nipped it in the bud.”
The system that’s in place to file protests wasn’t made available at provincials.
“You can protest anything during a game if it’s not a judgment call by the umpire and (the fee is) $100,” Millar said “Something like this would have gone to the Baseball Alberta committee.”
Bitterness continues to linger in the aftermath of the provincials.
“Parkland (28-8 in league play) was already a good team but the addition of those two made them a very tough team to beat,” said Millar, one of eight Large Association Representative members on the Baseball Alberta board of directors.
“There are still some pretty upset people over the whole situation so I’m guessing that next Baseball Alberta board meeting is going to be a lot of fun.
“I actually felt bad for the office. They took a lot of heated phone calls.”
However, the Cardinals have no one to blame but themselves for failing to make the final as the provincial favourites.
The Cardinals – 30-3 in league play and 41-14 overall after provincials – lost their last pool A game, 7-6 to Sherwood Park (27-12 in league play) on a late Monday night as both teams finished the round robin with 2-1 records, and the result slotted the Red Birds in the semifinal against Parkland, 3-0 in pool B, instead of the second-place 2-1 Fort McMurray Oil Giants (19-19 in league play).
A rocky start in the semifinal saw the Cardinals fall behind 5-0 after two innings as starting pitcher Tylor Jans gave up one run on two hits in the first and Parkland added four runs on four hits in the second.
Jan lasted 3-1/3 innings before Joe Karall entered the game with one out and a run on second and Parkland in front 6-1.
Jans, 18, struck-out five and didn’t walk a batter while yielding nine hits in his first start since July 31 with Team Alberta, bronze medallists at the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg. The winning pitcher in the 6-4 outcome against Quebec worked 4-2/3 innings and recorded three strikeouts and two walks during the three-hitter while give up two runs.
The only run for the Cardinals in the semifinal was scored by Colton Girard on Mike Brisson’s RBI single with two out in the third.
Anthony Owen led the Cardinals with two hits.
Both teams committed one error. The Cardinals left four players on base and Parkland had six stranded.
The big winner at provincials was the grounds crew for labouring through several rainstorms to make sure the midget AAA championship ran pretty much on schedule, from Sunday to Tuesday, as well as the peewee AAA Tier I provincials from Friday to Monday as an extra day was needed to complete the tournament.
Sunday’s junior AAA provincial games were also moved to St. Albert when the Callingwood Park diamond was too wet for tournament action.
“Our grounds crew is second to none really,” Millar said. “I’m very proud of the guys.”
Hard-core workers like Connor Burns and Seth Wasylchuk were joined by countless others, including bantam AAA Cardinals’ head coach Sean Erikson and player Jackson Moffat the day after Tier I provincials ended Sunday in Okotoks.
“We’ve been working hard on our fields. It took a ton of rain last year and we’ve learned how to deal with the rain,” Millar said. “That rain that really hit us (Monday) I’ve never seen us play games after rain like that so to get the fields playable in like two and half hours, I was really blown away by that.
“My facilities director, Brian Bourassa, also worked his butt off. He put in countless volunteer hours as well.”