The Red Deer Riggers didn’t get the pitching they needed as they dropped a 15-8 decision to the Sherwood Park Athletics in the fifth game of the best-of-five Sunburst Baseball League and provincial senior AAA championship before 300 fans at Great Chief Park Friday.
But in the end one call that went against them may have changed the game completely in favour of the Athletics.
The call came with two away in the eighth inning and the A’s holding an 8-7 lead.
Jason Sutherland doubled to right centre and Greg Wallace attempted to score all the way from first base. The throw came to catcher Curtis Mazurkewich just before Wallace slammed into him knocking the ball loose.
In Baseball Canada rules the base runner has to slide or make an attempt to miss the catcher. Wallace did neither. But the umpire failed to make the call, which would have been the third out. Also on the play pitcher Joel Peterman picked the ball up and threw it wild to third in an effort to get Sutherland, who then also scored.
“It’s a Baseball Canada rule,” said Riggers manager Curtis Bailey. “Unfortunately when the home plate umpire talked to the other two umpires they appeared not to be watching. You look back at that play and it would have been 8-7. Instead they end up scoring seven runs that inning and it’s over.”
Still the Riggers never got the key out when needed.
The Riggers led 7-3 behind starter Davin Gulbransen, heading into the sixth inning. Gulbransen was tiring a bit and gave up a run and had two men on, and two away when the Riggers went to the bullpen for Peterman. The first pitch Lance Romanchuk saw he slammed over the right field wall to tie the game.
“That changed the momentum and even the crowd noise,” said Bailey. “But usually we’re good at come back, but …”
Peterman then got two our in the seventh inning before a double by Jeremy Harasymchuk and a single by Mark Kuzyk put the A’s ahead. Then came the disastrous eighth inning as Peterman, then Dustin Northcott, who had pitched Wednesday, had problems getting the third out.
“It was tough, the guys just ran out of juice,” said Bailey. “Davin battled and gave us all we could ask of him. After that we just didn’t have it in the tank.”
The Riggers did manage a run in the eighth, but that was all they could get off A’s reliever Adam Paulencu, who had pitched a complete game on Wednesday. Paulencu came on the start the sixth inning for James Fischer, who allowed seven runs on 10 hits.
“We did a good job of getting our hits off James, but Paulencu threw well,” said Bailey.
Paulencu, who had been picked twice in the Major League draft, allowed just one hit while fanning five.
Jaret Chatwood threw a scoreless ninth for the Riggers, who could have used left-hander Wyle Cunningham, who left the team earlier in the season.
“We needed that extra arm,” said Bailey. “Some of our guys have sore arms, so we couldn’t use them as planned in this series. But we still battled and lost to a good team. The disappointment is that we don’t go to the nationals next year.”
The Riggers do leave Tuesday for the Canadian championships in Chatham, N.B. They play games Thursday and Friday and two on Saturday in their pool.
Jason Louis had three hits, including a two-run home run in the first inning and two-run single in the second. He also walked.
Kevin Curran and Jason Chatwood had two hits each while Chatwood walked.
Curtis Mazurkewich had another strong game with a single, a solo home run in the fifth and a walk. Jordan Weinkauf had a single, double and sacrifice bunt.
The Riggers added Romanchuk, Fischer and Tom Muhlethaler from the A’s for the nationals along with pitcher Ben Runyon of the Confederation Park Cubs and Jake Hansen from the Lethbridge Bulls.
“We have more depth this year than last year and hopefully by the time we start next week our guys sore arms are healthy,” said Bailey.