Red Deer Braves pitcher Josh Zinger fires a pitch early in the opening game of the 18U AAA Western Canada Championships Thursday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Northern Lights Academy roll over Red Deer in opener of 18U AAA Western Canada Championships

Northern Lights Academy put on a hit parade to open the 18U AAA Western Canada Baseball Championships.

Alberta’s number one seed in the tournament rolled over the host Red Deer Carstar Braves with a huge 13-1 victory Thursday at Great Chief Park.

They spoiled the party for the home side to the tune of 10 hits and looked like a well-oiled machine in the win. They scored in every inning but the first.

“I don’t want to say surprising but after two weeks off, not seeing competition, the bats came alive quick and it’s good to see,” said Northern Lights coach Cashtyn DeLeeuw.

“Hopefully we can just keep that rolling throughout the weekend. We have a lot of good arms left. Just keep the bats rolling and keep it going.”

Out of Grande Prairie, Northern Lights are about as Cinderella story as it gets coming into these championships.

Relegated to tier II in the Norwest Baseball League after a slow start, the Northern Lights boys have been red hot of late.

After winning the Tier II Provincial championship, they pushed their way into the final at the Tier I level. They fell to St.Albert in that game, but haven’t done much losing over the last month otherwise.

“We peaked at the right time. I’ve always believed in this group. We’ve always had a great team, great chemistry. Now, we got healthy and the bought into what we were preaching. We’re just looking to win more ball games,” DeLeeuw added.

Donavan Wallace led the way for Northern Lights with two hits and three RBI on the night. Kai Reum went five strong on the mound for the visitors, only allowing one run while striking out six. He was MVP for Northern Lights.

“Had the curveball working early. It’s such a plus pitch, especially at this age group. Once he gets that working early, he gets those hitters off-balance,” DeLeeuw said.

“They’re waiting for that nasty curveball, then he blows one by them. He gets them off balance early and had a good rhythm. Lost it a bit during the middle, but found a way to compete and minimize the damage.”

For the host Braves, the bats just never got going in the opener. The young group struggled to figure out Reum and the rest of the Grande Prairie staff that combined to keep the home side to just one run. Red Deer had just five hits in the loss. Aldo Rojas was the player of the game for the home side.

Next up for Red Deer is the North Winnipeg Pirates at noon on Friday, while Northern Lights will face the Saskatoon Cubs at 3 p.m. Both games are at Great Chief Park.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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Red Deer Midget AAA Braves coach Randy Gehring hands the ball to Branden Amendt to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Western Canadian Championships in Red Deer at Great Chief Park on Thursday night. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

The Red Deer Midget AAA Carstar Braves enter the field at Great Chief Park as part of the opening ceremonies of the Western Canadian Championships Thursday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

All five teams took to the field ahead of the opening game of the Western Canadian Championships Thursday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

The Northern Lights Academy group from Grande Prairie face the colour guard during the national anthem in the opening ceremonies of the Western Canadian Championships Thursday at Great Chief Park. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

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