The Innisfail Merchants won gold at the Baseball Alberta Provincials in Edmonton on the weekend. (Photo by Cindra Bouteiller)

Innisfail Merchants repeat as champs at Junior AAA provincials

The Innisfail Merchants needed strong defence and tough pitching in a successful defence of their Junior AAA Baseball Alberta Provincial title.

After clubbing their way to provincial win with 77 runs over the weekend in 2018, the defending champion Merchants relied on solid arms and solid defence this year. It was their third provincial win in nine years and will be the eighth time they represent Alberta at the Western Canada Baseball Association Junior AAA Championship.

In the final Monday at provincials, they edged the St. Albert Cardinals 5-3 in extra innings to earn the title.

Tied 2-2 heading into extra innings, the game was decided using the international tie-breaker rule. Innisfail hit first in the top of the eighth, and runners were placed on first and second with no outs. After a bunt moved the two runners over, Clayton Kary singled home a run and Ty Moline was thrown out at the plate. Later in eighth, both Ty Ratzlaff and Garet Hagel singled home runs to add to the Merchants lead.

In the bottom half of the eighth, the Cardinals scored on a sacrifice fly and a single. Shortstop Alan Klinck captured the final out. Jack Henley had a dominant outing, striking out 11 Cardinals in the victory.

To open the tournament, the Merchants knocked off the host Edmonton Padres thanks to strong night by Jace Bruce on the mound. Rylan Zens helped out with some strong defensive play and followed that up with the game-winning RBI single.

Zens then came up with a strong pitching performance, helping Innisfail to a 5-1 win over the Community Park Reds on Sunday Morning.

Sunday night, Brett Porter went the distance but a tough bottom of the sixth inning allowed the Cardinals to earn a 6-5 victory. With the two wins earlier in the tournament, the Merchants still earned a spot in the finals.

At Westerns starting on Aug. 9, the Merchants will take on the host Saskatoon Hoopers. Saturday they’ll play the Elmwood Giants of Manitoba and the Cardinals. Sunday, they’ll finish off the round robin against the Interlake Blue Jays of Manitoba.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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