For the second time this season, the Fort Saskatchewan Athletics have handed the Red Deer Riggers their first loss —only this time, it should stand up.
The Athletics beat the Riggers 10-9 in Game 2 of the Sunburst Baseball League final at Great Chief Park on Monday night, in a heartbreaker for the home team.
The A’s originally beat the Riggers 7-5 during the regular season, but were forced to forfeit the game due to using an ineligible player. There will be no technicality keeping the Riggers perfect this time.
The win could not have come at any better time for Fort Saskatchewan, as the series now switches back to the capital region for Games 3 and 4.
“It’s huge, to come here and walk away with a split,” said A’s third baseman Lance Romanchuk. “We feel like if we had another inning (in Game 1) we would have won that ball game, so we’re feeling pretty good right now, we’re happy with where we’re sitting.”
Red Deer, however, came within a heartbeat of sweeping the first two games at home.
The Athletics built a huge 9-2 lead through the top of the eighth inning, but Red Deer battled back and tied it with a seven-run bottom half of the inning. The Riggers loaded the bases with none out for slugging first baseman Jason Louis and he singled to left centre field to bring in two runs. Shayne Court followed with a double to score another run and to put runners at second and third with none out. Kevin Curran then singled to score Louis and Reign Letkeman grounded out to first, scoring Court. After Denver Wik reached first, short stop Jason Chatwood singled up the middle to score Curran and put runners on first and second with one out. Catcher Jaret Chatwood made it two out with a fly ball to right field, but Kerry Boone singled up the middle tie the game.
However, they could not covert it into a win.
Riggers relief pitcher Sean Maguire loaded the bases with none out before being lifted for Josh Edwards. He got the first batter he saw to hit a ground ball to first base and got the force at home. But he walked the next batter to score Jeremy Harasymchuk.
Edwards got out of the jam after that, but the damage was done.In the bottom half of the ninth, the Riggers got Louis over to third base with two out, but could not bring him in.
It was a tough way to go down.
“It’s always tough losing in the playoffs,” said head coach Curtis Bailey. “It’s one of those things where even though we’re down by seven, we string some hits together and it shows a lot of character that we can come back and we can battle with them.”
Red Deer dug their own grave early, as starting pitcher Drew Boyer gave up five singles to the first five hitters, plating three Fort Saskatchewan batters, and Kiel Vertz kept the Riggers at bay until he ran out of steam in the eighth inning. Boyer lasted 3 2/3 innings for the Riggers, giving up five runs, three earned, with eight hits, while Vertz went seven-plus innings allowing six runs, five earned on 10 hits with two strike outs.
Davin Gulbransen followed Boyer, going 2 1/3 innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits while Maguire went two-plus innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and taking the loss.