It took until the early minutes of Thursday morning, but the Red Deer Riggers completed their opening round sweep of the St. Albert Tigers with a 7-5 win in 12 innings.
The win puts the Riggers into the best-of-five Sunburst Baseball League provincial final which will start on Sunday at 6 p.m. at Great Chief Park. They now await the winner of the Fort Saskatchewan Athletics and the Confederation Cubs, whose best-of-three first round series is at 1-0 for the A’s. Game 2 on Wednesday night was called on account of darkness.
Star shortstop Jason Chatwood played the part of hero, smoking a three-run triple to right field in the top of the 12th inning to make the score 7-4.
St. Albert got one unearned run back in the bottom half of the inning but that’s as close as they got.
“It was one of those games where all of the bounces were going against us,” said Jordan Weinkauff who was filling in as Riggers coach with Curtis Bailey sick.
“Everything that we hit, they were catching … so when we finally saw Jason hit a gap it was a sense of relief that we were finally being rewarded for putting bat on ball all night.”
Not only was the game long just due to the number of innings, but a one-hour delay after the Riggers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning due to thunder and lightning meant the game did not finish until approximately 12:30 a.m.
Dustin Northcott got the start for Red Deer and threw seven innings, giving up four runs. Joel Peterman came in and pitched three scoreless innings before giving way to Drew Boyer who pitched the final two innings and picked up the win.
Finishing the Tigers off in two games was key for the Riggers who also have their eyes on the national championships at the end of the month, which they qualified for by winning the league and provincial title last year.
“It’s huge, when you get in the playoffs it becomes a strategy game as far as being able to save arms and make sure you have enough pitchers for the games you are going to have to play,” said Weinkauff. “Anytime that you can save some innings by sweeping, then that’s only going to benefit you in the stretch.”