A strange, but disappointing ending to the Sunburst Baseball League final followed by a quarter-final exit at nationals is still fresh in the minds of the Riggers.
“It leaves a bitter taste in everybody’s mouth,” said Riggers coach and shortstop Jason Chatwood. “When you lose Game 5 of the playoffs at home.
“We went to nationals after and we competed in every game, but I think with the group of guys we have we definitely can medal at the national tournament. We’re capable of being a top four team.”
With the best-of-five league final series tied at two wins each, the Riggers were up 8-7 over the Sherwood Park Athletics with two outs in the top of the eighth inning. But a collision at home plate jarred the ball loose, which would have been the third out.
The call was contested, under Baseball Canada rules the base runner has to slide or make an attempt to miss the catcher, but stood as a run. The A’s scored eight runs that inning and won the game 15-8, winning the series.
“By losing provincials and knowing we’re not going to nationals this year, it makes us want to get right back out there,” said Chatwood. “We want to get that opportunity to play for nationals next year.
“We don’t like losing and losing last year put a sour taste in everybody’s mouth. Guys worked hard during the winter and everyone was excited to get back and see each other. Our goal is to win the league this year.”
At nationals in Nova Scotia, the Riggers finished the round robin with two wins and two losses. They fell to the eventual silver medal winning Quebec team in the quarter-final.
The Riggers have won provincial titles in 2009, 2010, 2013 and in 2014. The A’s will go to nationals this year, while the Riggers will look to avenge last year’s loss.
Chatwood said the roster has kept its core group of guys, with only a few new faces. The hope is to have those new faces spur some competition within the team.
“I think we’re a pretty versatile team,” said Chatwood. “I think we’ll have a really solid offensive lineup top through bottom with a mix of guys who can get on base and have speed and then we definitely have some guys who can hit for power and guys who can get some RBIs.”
Leading the pitching rotation is the right-handed Dustin Northcott and the southpaw Josh Edwards.
“They’ve proven they can be successful in the league,” said Chatwood, adding he thinks the rotation is pretty strong.
“We look to (Northcott and Edwards) a lot and they’re leaders on the staff. Then we have guys who are good out of the bullpen or the spot starters, guys like Davin Gulbransen who have a lot of experience.”
Last year’s coach Curtis Bailey is back with the team as a player. Chatwood admits he will look to Bailey and others at times for coaching help.
The Riggers open the season with two home games, on May 10 and 17 at Great Chief Park starting at 7:30 p.m.. The first game is against the Parkland White Sox and then meet the A’s.