The Red Deer Riggers are Baseball Alberta Senior AAA champions.
It took extra innings in Game 4 Thursday in the best-of-five series with the Sherwood Park Athletics, but the Riggers snagged a 8-4 win to earn the title.
It’s the first time since 2014 Red Deer has won the provincial championship, after losing to the Athletics in both 2015 and 2016.
Ben Runyon pitched seven and a third innings in the victory and reliever Drew Boyer earned the win on the mound in the 11th inning.
“Ben was awesome. He battled for seven plus innings. Our hitters too did a great job of just battling. They threw their best guy at us and we battled and put the ball in play. Bunted when we needed to bunt and it was a total team win – top to bottom,” Shortstop and coach Jason Chatwood said.
Chatwood added it felt like the game was tied at three for the majority of the game, but the defensive effort of Red Deer was what kept them going.
“It was pretty tight from the first pitch on. They got a couple runs early and we battled back. It seemed like it was 3-3 forever,” Chatwood said. “They had a couple chances. Bases loaded twice with less than two outs and we ended up with double plays. We made some plays we had to make – do or die plays. It was pretty awesome.”
Nationals in Victoria are next on the docket for the Riggers, with the tournament getting underway in Victoria on Aug. 24. Red Deer will face the Tecumseh Thunder first, Ontario’s number one entry.
“The last three games for us were so huge going into nationals. They were tough, tight games,” Chatwood said.
“Pitchers pitched well, our defence was good and we were just scrappy at the plate. We got guys on and found a way to move them over into scoring position when we needed to. That’s how you have to play at nationals.”
Since the Riggers lost to Sherwood Park in last year’s provincial championship, the Athletics go into nationals as Alberta’s number one entry. For Chatwood and the Riggers, winning this week will go a long way to helping their confidence.
“You don’t like going to nationals as Alberta two,” Chatwood said.
“You feel like you got it handed to you. I think after winning (Thursday), you tell yourself we really deserve to be there. I get that they beat us last year, but we’re right there with them. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be there.”
It’s the first time since the Riggers have attended nationals since 2015 in New Brunswick. Chatwood said the group is excited for the opportunity and the challenge the tournament presents.
“You don’t get a lot of freebies. The teams are pretty solid. You have to do the little things right,” Chatwood said. “It’s nice to go with our team for sure. You get to go out there and have a chance to win a national title which is why you play.”