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Angels in the outfield, finally!

St. Albert fastball team pulls off clean sweep at Friday’s exhibition opener
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Olivia Leibel of the St. Albert Angels 14UA team uses some sharp vision to lay off a ball outside of the strike zone on Friday, June 11.

The scene at the Meadowview ball diamonds on Friday was almost surreal. The sound of people talking and laughing with cracks of bats hitting balls in the background was truly music to the ears.

It was opening week for St. Albert Angels as teams ranging from 14U to 12U were getting in their first proper games after a COVID-19 delay saw their season pushed back. Instead of staggering the games throughout the day, they kicked off opening night with four exhibition games at once, one on each field. Dean Borys, president of Fastball St. Albert, said they had gone through a lot to get to this point.

“Last year was quite a challenge with COVID, we were not able to start any play until well into July, but we still had a number of teams who competed in cohorts with other organizations,” said Borys. “There was no actual league play (last year), it was all exhibition games and only played against two other teams.”

Despite vaccination rates going up and COVID numbers steadily dropping the last month, there were still some troubles in getting the fastball season up and running. They had to wait until the province entered Stage 2 of its reopening plan. Fastball St. Albert went into the process with a positive mindset and was always committed to getting started this year.

“Fastball St. Albert never considered not getting things up and running, it was simply a case of waiting for the government to allow us to play some ball,” said Borys. “Here we are now at Stage 2, ready to play!”

The coaches faced a few hurdles, too. They had to balance the excitement of being on the field again with nerves as they prepared their players after coming off an extended break. Murray Scoggins, coach of the U14A team, gave some thoughts ahead of his game.

“They’re going to be nervous. It's a new team that hasn’t played together really,” said Scoggins. “They’ve been practicing all winter and now they get to go outside and get into some real games, so they’re pretty excited.”

Nerves didn’t seem to get in their way. The U14A had back-to-back five-inning games against the Beaumont Blitz and were able to get a clean sweep of both. They squeaked out a tight first game that went down to the wire, winning by a score of 3-1. Then they went on to a hard-fought 7-4 victory later in the day.

On the other field, the U12s opened their exhibition season, too. The U12A’s were pitted against the Edmonton Warriors in what began as a great defensive start for the Angels. Cayden Ellis kicked things off with an impressive three strikeouts in the first inning, while Ella Stranaghan on third base picked up an infield grounder and made an excellent play to get the runner out at first base. The U12A’s cruised to an impressive 20-2 win.

U12A catchers Devynn Power and Allison Boulter are both four-year veterans of the sport and acted with grace despite the lopsided score.

“I think there was a lot of pressure, but it was very exciting and both teams played really well,” said Boulter. “We learned how to play as a team and it was great.”

“It was great to get back out on the field and have some fun,” said Power.

The U12B team was the late game of the day, starting about an hour after the others, but that didn’t stop them from having an exciting game. A high-scoring affair went down to the final few innings, but it was the Angels who came out on top as they beat the Beaumont Blitz by a score of 15-11.

The three U12C teams played, too. Their night looked a little different, as they played a round robin against each other. Most of these players are new to the sport so coaches used the time as an opportunity to teach the basics.

“It’s the first year for a lot of our girls. We’ve been having quite a few practices so they are excited to get their first-ever game,” said Rob Parrotte, one of the three U12C coaches. “We’re doing a little round robin against the other two 12C teams just to get some kinks out and learn some warm-ups and some of the rules for the new girls.”

Beginners or not it seemed like everyone on each U12C team had a blast on. The round-robin winner was Team Marko, 15-5 against Team Parotta, and 10-5 against Team Clark.

A trio of first-year girls playing for Team Parotta gave the experience a rousing endorsement in the moments after their final game.

“I loved it so much,” said Allison Parotta.

“My favourite position is shortstop and I really like it,” said Valentina Bijou.

“It was very fun and exciting,” said Brielle Demkiw.

It was a successful opening night.

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