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Cardinals take their lumps

It was no surprise to the midget AAA St. Albert Cardinals that they would come out of a men’s baseball tournament without a win.

It was no surprise to the midget AAA St. Albert Cardinals that they would come out of a men’s baseball tournament without a win.

But that’s not what this past weekend’s Tigers Baseball Association tournament was about for the younger squad.

Without a doubt, they wanted to win. But a Saturday morning loss to the Fort Saskatchewan Athletics, often referred to as the team to beat in the Sunburst league, followed by a Saturday evening defeat in the feature game to the junior AAA St. Albert Tabbies was no true sweat off their backs.

Neither was losing to the Red Deer Riggers Sunday morning to close out round robin play.

What mattered more for the midget Cardinals was getting a chance to see how older players play the game. It was an opportunity to see how to become more mentally disciplined, to see more experienced players’ baseball IQ, what to do in certain situations.

And it’s not as though the Cardinals were simply dominated. They held the Tabbies to a two-run lead deep into the feature game Saturday night before the gap widened to 6-0 after Keegan Hucul started to show fatigue on the mound, outlasted by opposing pitchers.

“We came into this tournament knowing we were going to take our lumps,” said assistant coach Justin Dickson, who was a pick-up for the Red Deer Stags and played the DH spot in the final against the Tigers. “It was to see the way guys who have been doing it for years go about their game. I thought we had a great outing last night from Keegan. We had our chances to win the game but they got some crafty veterans.”

“Some of our younger kids are not used to seeing guys who can throw two and three pitches for strikes the whole time. We knew what the reality was with our team. Cruthers probably had his best outing of the year [against the Riggers]. Same thing happened again where he ran out of gas at the end but they have a lot of college guys who can still swing it and he had a great day [Sunday].

Dickson didn’t think the scores were indicative of how well the Cardinals pitched. With the arm of Scott Gerun and a couple of other players playing for Team Alberta on the weekend, the Cardinals fielded a number of players out of position. “Errors are going to happen when that happens.”

In talking to his players after the tournament, Dickson said it appeared a lot of the players took lessons that they needed from the Tigers’ tourney.

The coaching staff for the Cardinals are looking to build a streak and mould the team into a squad capable of winning provincials and moving on to nationals. So far this season the Cardinals have struggled with consistency, splitting their last 10 games.

“The kids took from this tournament what they needed to. You can’t be beating yourself up after every single error. You can’t let errors snowball into huge innings like what we did. These guys, they make errors, they think ‘Who cares, we’ll get the next one.’”

“Midgets, they don’t have the mental side of the game and they learned a lot from the tourney. Hopefully that will translate into some wins. It’s about time we put together a streak.”

Maybe the inter-city rivalry had something to do with it, but Dickson said the best game the Cardinals put on was against the Tabbies under the lights. Despite facing “a guy on the mound who carved us out pretty good,” Dickson said the Cardinals managed quality at-bats and had a lot of runners in scoring position the whole game.

“We just couldn’t get the big hit when we needed it. It goes back to having young guys at the plate when that happened. They just don’t have that baseball intelligence yet to maybe push a bunt down and score a run instead of going up and looking for the base hit. It comes with time and practice.”

“We just ran out of arms. We had guys playing all over. It was a good weekend for us.”

In league play the Cardinals host the Spruce Grove White Sox at 7 p.m. Friday.

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