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Cardinals topple Westlock for first ever championship win

“I think we're all kind of like a little bit in disbelief to tell you the truth,” Manager Zach Pollard said of the win.

The St. Albert Cardinals ended their year with a shutout win over Westlock, earning them the championship title in the North Central Alberta Baseball League for the first time.

The local Cardinals tromped the Westlock Red Lions 8-0 on Sunday afternoon in the final game of a three-game championship showdown.

The Cardinals have played in the North Central Alberta Baseball League (NCABL) for 11 years but had not earned the title until this season.

Cardinals Manger Zach Pollard said it was surreal to finally win the championship.

“We just all kind of ran to the mound and shook each other’s hands,” Pollard said.

The manager, who also plays on the team, is only one of three players who has been with the club since its inception 11 years ago.

“I think we're all kind of like a little bit in disbelief to tell you the truth,” Pollard said of the win.

“It was a really hard-fought series.”

The three-game series started off on Friday where the Cardinals, who won the season, faced off against the Red Lions, who came in third during season play. But despite defeating them in league play, the St. Albert squad knew they had their work cut out for them, as the Westlock team has been in the league for decades and is known for being tough to beat.

The savvy veteran club topped the local squad during the first game of the series, with a final score of 7-4 for Westlock.

The Cardinals were feeling deflated, Pollard said, but the group soon rallied, remembering their winning record from the season play and knowing they could win against the club.

“We won 75 per cent of our games this year. All we have to do is do what we know that we can do and the rest will fall into place,” Pollard said.  

By game two the club came out swinging, but the Red Lions were also determined to win. The two squads were tied until the 6th inning when the Cardinals blew the game open and advanced on Westlock, finishing with a 10-3 win.

The final game fought at home in St. Albert, was a strong performance from the home squad, keeping the Red Lions completely shut out.

Mark Trela, the St. Albert pitcher who won MVP of the championship series, stepped up for the team, Pollard said.

“He was an absolute gem for us. It allowed Westlock not to get any runs and everything seemed to like kind of land in our favour.”

Pollard said the team was getting the right bounces and they made a lot of good defensive plays.

“We really never gave Westlock a chance to respond to anything.”

The St. Albert team has been in the league for more than a decade and this is the first time they have pulled off the big win. Pollard, who has been on the team since its inception, said the secret ingredient to their success this year has been the camaraderie and connection between the players.

The group played well together Pollard said, and always picked each other up when things weren’t going so well.

NCABL commissioner Paul Riopel said the team has had so much growth in the 11 years they have been in the league. They had a handful of strong veterans who recruited some strong young players to join the group.

And Pollard said he hopes the squad can continue their winning streak into the coming season.

“I would hope that most of our core is going to stay next year and hopefully a legacy.”

Jennifer Henderson

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette and has been with Great West Media since 2015
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