The Red Deer Riggers won bronze at the 2017 Baseball Canada Men’s National Championship. (File photo)

Riggers battle to bring home bronze from nationals

The Red Deer Riggers showed incredible resiliency this weekend to capture a bronze medal at the 2017 Baseball Canada Men’s National Championships in a Victoria.

Red Deer dropped an extra-inning semi final game 7-1 to the eventual champion Burnaby Bulldogs Sunday morning and had to turn around and face provincial rival Sherwood Park for bronze.

A back and forth game with the Athletics, the Riggers pushed one run across in the seventh inning to win 9-8 and end the season on a high note.

“It is so hard to make it to Sunday. As heartbreaking as the extra innings loss, I think we all realized you never know. Some guys might not get a chance to come back to get to that game,” Shortstop and coach Jason Chatwood said.

“A lot of things have to go your way. You definitely want to come home with something and it was nice to leave with a medal.”

Sherwood Park jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, but the Riggers responded with six in the second and the battle was on from there. Red Deer led 8-4 in the fourth inning, before the A’s scored one in the fifth and three in the sixth to tie it.

“Come the end of the game it was tied again, both teams knew it was going to be a battle and it was bit of a hard game to play too because both teams were so close to playing each other in the big game,” Chatwood said.

“It was hard to play that bronze game, but I think the competitive nature of everybody comes out. It’s definitely nice to come home with a medal.”

On Sunday morning the Riggers were one hit away from the gold medal game, in the eighth inning tied 1-1 against Burnaby when three hitter JP Wilner had the bases loaded with one out. He hit into a double play and the Bulldogs put up six runs, including a grand slam in the top of the ninth to finish off Red Deer.

Pitcher Josh Edwards lasted into the ninth inning and was well over 130 pitches when he finally gave way to Dustin Northcott.

Chatwood said the Riggers just couldn’t get that one hit they needed to push them into the final.

“Facing a tough lefty. From the fourth inning on, both teams had guys on base and chances to score. It just seemed like no one was able to get that big hit. (Josh Edwards) threw a heck of a game for us,” Chatwood said.

“He was just a horse all week, it was unbelievable.”

Regardless of what could have been, Chatwood added he was proud how the Riggers and Athletics represented the province on the national stage.

He also said the season was one the group won’t soon forget and there’s already been thoughts of nationals next year, which will be back in Victoria.

“As hard as it is to fly home, you were right there with the best teams in the country and to come home with bronze is a nice way to cap off the season,” Chatwood said. “Knowing that we’re coming back next year, guys are already excited about it.”

Red Deer will be Alberta’s number one seed heading into nationals next season as the provincial champion in 2017.

byron.hackett@reddeeradvocate.com

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