Riggers 6 Athletics 4
St. ALBERT — The Red Deer Riggers are on a roll.
The Riggers captured their second consecutive Alberta senior AAA baseball championship with a 6-4 come-from-behind victory over the Fort Saskatchewan Athletics Sunday afternoon
It was the 15th provincial title in the Riggers’ 30-year history, which saw them win the national crown in 1997.
This year’s championship was anything but easy, despite the fact the Riggers rolled through the provincials with a 5-0 record.
They fell behind 4-0 in the final after three innings and it appeared the teams were headed to a second playoff game. The Riggers, who downed the St. Albert Tigers 5-0 earlier Sunday, had to be defeated twice after posting a 4-0 round-robin record.
However, they got to A’s starter Karnie Vertz for four runs in the fourth inning on five hits and an error and they could feel the momentum shift.
“We just stayed relaxed and played our game,” said Riggers manager Curtis Bailey.
“It was a solid team effort where everyone contributed.”
One of the biggest contributors was 20-year-old Colin Hodgson, who replaced starter James Dykstra to start the fifth inning.
Dykstra, who was making his third start in six days and second in three, struggled a bit with his control and allowed four runs on eight hits while fanning four and walking two.
“I had a little trouble getting loose and was leaving the ball up,” explained Dykstra.
Hodgson, who was named MVP of the final, didn’t have any trouble getting loose, although he was a bit wild, walking two and hitting a batter in this three innings of work. But he only gave up one hit.
“I felt good and wasn’t nervous,” he said. “I was looking forward to pitching all weekend. I guess I was effectively wild, but I kept them on their toes and they couldn’t dig in.”
Howerver, despite his calm demeanor, Hodgson admitted he was a bit shocked to be in at the end.
“I was surprised to be throwing the last pitch, but it feels good now.”
The Riggers scored the go-head runs in the bottom of the sixth as Denver Wik walked, was sacrificed to second by Shayne Court and Matt Fay reached on an error. Delton Kruk lined a single to right, to plate Wik and Jason Chatwood singled home Fay.
“I was looking for a first-pitch fastball and I got it,” explained Kruk. “I think it was my only hit all weekend, but I wanted to sit back and drive it hard somewhere.”
Kruk looked back at the fourth inning as the turning point in the game.
“I thought prior to that inning we were down a bit and thinking, ‘well there’s always tomorrow”, but once we got a couple of hits and runs it changed.”
Bailey said he felt the team learned from last year’s experience.
“They believed they could do it,” he said. “In fact we took that into this weekend. There was a time in the middle of the season we were a bit off track, but we started coming around prior to this weekend and I think we will carry this over for years to come.”
“We’re a very close team and the guys are close off the field, so that’s important.”
Wik, who normally plays the outfield, was asked to play second base after a shoulder injury limited his throwing ability.
“I did what I had to do,” he said. “I was fortunate in that I saw the ball well and got the good hops.”
The Riggers should have been the tired team in the final after needing 12 innings to beat the A’s Saturday, then coming back and playing twice in the heat Sunday, while the A’s had Sunday off until the final.
“We were a bit tired, but we also had the adrenalin pumping,” said Wik. “I know that win Saturday was huge for us. It prevented them from going undefeated and it was the first time all season we beat them.”
Saturday’s 2-1 win was a classic with both teams playing letter perfect baseball and receiving outstanding pitching,.
Brent Lazzarotto and Jeff Hall each worked six innings for the Riggers while Kiel Vertz worked into the ninth and James Fischer went the rest of the way and took the loss. Kerry Boon, who tripled, scored the winning run on Mike Ronnie’s sacrifice fly.
But the biggest play was made by Jordan Weinkauf in right field when he made a spectacular driving catch on a Dan Chappel liner into right centre that would have scored at least one run.
“The game Saturday was huge,” agreed Bailey. “It was a great baseball game and it gave us a slight edge coming into today.”
The Riggers also needed the win over the Tigers to make sure they remained undefeated and Matt Davis took care of that, tossing a four-hit shutout.
“Matt threw strikes and you could see he has a good future in front of him,” said Bailey.
“I got a lot of support behind me,” said Davis. “In fact the guys were great defensively all weekend. They didn’t give away runs. We allowed only six runs in five games while scoring 40. You’ll win a lot of games that way.”
Davis couldn’t have asked for more in his rookie season.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” he said. “We’ve had a great year so far and I’ve had one helluva time being part of it.”
The Red Deer Stags finished with a 2-2 record after beating the Calgary Redbirds 5-4 Sunday.
James Carr started on the mound and went two innings, allowing three runs on five hits. Colin Amendt gave up a run on four hits in two innings, and Josh Edwards tossed the final three innings of three-hit ball.
The Stags scored twice in the bottom of the seventh on a Jamie Vallis double and a wild pitch.
Vallis had a single and a double and Kevin Curran and Aaron Tweet two hits each.
• Jason and Jaret Chatwood, Kerry Boon, Mike Ronnie and Bailey had two hits each in the final . . . Riggers go to the nationals, Aug. 26-29 in Dartmouth, N.S. and with Sunday’s win have qualified for next year’s championships.