It’s only three games into the season, but it’s already obvious the Red Deer Riggers will be serious contenders for the provincial senior AAA baseball championship.
They have talent and depth in all areas, something that was once again front and centre as they downed the Edmonton Confederation Park Cubs 12-2 in seven innings in Sunburst Baseball League action at Great Chief Park Tuesday.
“It’s early in the year, but everyone is contributing and with the Riggers and Stags combining we’re strong one through nine and have depth in all areas,” said Riggers veteran outfielder Mike Ronnie. “It helps to have that depth, so even with a short schedule we can get a rest when we need it and be fresh. It helps, especially pitching. We’re not short on the mound and if someone does struggle we have the guys to come in.”
Dustin Northcott started Tuesday and worked four innings, allowing a pair of runs in the second inning. He allowed four hits, walked one and fanned seven. Former Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Brant Stickel went the final three innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.
“It was the first game for both Dustin and Brant, but they were throwing strikes and not giving them much,” said Ronnie.
Riggers playing manager Curtis Bailey agreed.
“When Dustin got that double play (in the third) it fired him up and we probably could have pitched him another inning, but it’s early and we don;’t have to force anything. Also it’s nice to have Brant come in. He brings a lot of experience and he has that presence about him.
“I know one thing, I wouldn’t want to hit against our staff. We’re seven deep, which is nice to see.
“It’s also nice to see depth at all positions. We have guys who can play different positions and they all contribute with the bat and on defence.”
Ronnie got the Riggers rolling with a three-run home run in the first inning off Cubs starter and former Edmonton Prospects right-hander Owen Renwick. It was Ronnie’s second home run in the last two games.
“I’m seeing the ball good, but then so is everyone,” said Ronnie, who missed the second half of last season with a broken thumb.
“It was a long year for me and it’s nice to be back,” he said. “I don’t have any side effects.”
Despite the fact Renwick struggled with his control early it wasn’t until the fourth inning that the Riggers took complete control,. They scored six runs off Renwick on five hits and two walks. The big hit was a three-run double by Jason Chatwood. Matt Fay lined a three-run double in the sixth off reliever Trevor Petty.
The win was the third in a row for the Riggers, who have allowed only three runs.
“That says a lot about our pitching and defence,” said Bailey.
“It’s a great way to start the season, it gives everyone a lot of confidence right off the bat,” added Ronnie.
Shayne Court had a pair of doubles for the Riggers while Fay added two walks and a sacrifice to his double. Brendan Dawidowski had a solo home run for the Cubs, who are in their first year in the league.
The Riggers return to action Friday at St. Albert while they host Fort Saskatchewan next Tuesday.