Consider Tuesday night a bounce-back game for the St. Albert Cardinals, as the bantam AAA team defeated SEEBA after a semifinal tournament exit in Sherwood Park.
On Sunday afternoon Saskatoon's Blue Jays mercied the Cardinals 11-1. The Red Birds rebounded with a 13-3 mercy victory of their own over SEEBA. St. Albert's pitchers combined for one walk and nine strikeouts to SEEBA's eight walks and five strikeouts.
Connor Girard earned the win in four innings of play on the mound.
Jeff Harrison and Nolan Laderoute each drove in three runs while Nolan Werre, Chance Wheatley and Girard brought home one each. The remaining three runs were scored on errors or hit-by-pitches by SEEBA.
During the game, the memory of the loss to the Blue Jays still stung and was clearly a motivating factor for a team looking to get back on a winning trajectory.
“We played pretty good but in the semis we got hit pretty bad,” said Girard. “Our pitchers weren't hitting their spots. They were hitting us everywhere and we got mercied. They're a pretty good team. They played well and we can play as good as them. We just had a crappy game. We hadn't faced them yet. We didn't know how they are and obviously we don't see them much.”
“It was a good bounce-back game from the semifinal loss,” added head coach Greg Reiniger. “Our pitchers did a pretty good job. Girard had a very good outing. Offensively we hit the ball well. There were still a few at bats that we chased and swung in certain situations we need to improve on. Defensively we were OK.”
Reiniger's disappointment from the weekend tournament in Sherwood Park stemmed mostly from consistency issues as the Cardinals would have one or two big innings, much like Tuesday, and then be held scoreless the remainder of the game.
Couple that with the scorecard tipped so heavily, the coach was obviously critical. But he also said the team showed resilience in coming back from six-run deficits like in the 8-7 victory over the Saskatoon Cardinals.
“It had some ups and downs. We weren't very consistent. The downside is we never should have been in situations where we had to battle back. But the good side is we showed heart and came back to win a couple of ball games.”
“Right now, the Blue Jays are just a superior team to us. They hit the ball hard, they beat us up. Are they that much better? I don't think so, but they certainly were that day. You'd like to see a bit more fight and we didn't do that. I think if we were in that situation again we might now react differently.”
On Tuesday, after two scoreless innings the Cardinals opened the floodgates in the third. Laderoute started things off with a left-field single that brought in two runs. A missed pitch expanded the lead to 3-0 before Werre padded it by bringing in Harrison.
An attempt to steal by Werre gave Joe Pasychnyk an opportunity to score. That was followed by consecutive walks by the SEEBA pitching staff. Girard was then hit by a pitch. Wheatley's single rounded out the scoring in the seven-run affair, bringing in Harrison.
SEEBA responded with a two-run bottom half, then St. Albert got on the sticks again in the top of the fourth. Harrison's double to right field brought home three, Girard's centre field hit and Laderoute's right field knock each brought in one while Pasychnyk reached on an error.
The Edmonton club got one run back before a strikeout at the hands of Marcus Blair finished the game.
“We played good today, we hit lots of balls,” said Girard. “I thought I did pretty good. They got a couple hits when I missed my spot and hung it over the plate with the fastballs. They can hit the ball.”
“We could tell in that last inning Girard was starting to slow down a bit,” said Reiniger. “A month from now he may be going another inning. We wanted to get him and Marcus in so we can limit pitch count a bit and get other guys some innings. If it was a 2-1 ball game in July, we would have extended him.”
Reiniger is hoping the Sherwood Park tournament taught valuable lessons to his club, which will carry through into this weekend's tourney in Regina. Up first for the Cardinals was Swift Current, followed by Moose Jaw and Regina before Sunday's elimination rounds.
“The expectations are to go and win,” said Reiniger. “We have never seen these teams before. It should be a good tournament. Sunday night we'll know for sure but competition should be fierce and it will be nice to see teams we wouldn't normally play. If we show up, we'll be competitive.”