The two Red Deer teams — Riggers and Stags — have their fate in their own hands heading into the final day of round-robin play in the provincial senior AAA baseball championships today at Great Chief Park, but they could have made things a lot easier on themselves.
The Stags, who sit at 3-1, do have a bit more breathing room than the Riggers, who are 2-2.
However, the Stags could have wrapped up a playoff spot Friday if they didn’t blow a 9-1 lead against the St. Albert Tabbies and drop a 10-9 decision in their morning game. They did come back to beat the Calgary Redbirds 8-5 in the afternoon and need at least a split today — 10 a.m. against the Fort Saskatchewan A’s and 1 p.m. against the St. Albert Tigers — to finish in the top four and advance to Sunday’s semifinals.
The Riggers also split a pair of games Friday, beating the Tigers 4-1 in the morning before playing a sloppy game against the A’s and losing 7-5 in the evening.
The Riggers can also all but assure themselves a playoff spot by beating the Tabbies at 10 a.m. and the Calgary Cardinals at 4 p.m.
Fort Saskatchewan sits first with a 4-0 record with the Redbirds, Riggers and Tabbies at 2-2. The Cardinals are 1-3 and the Tigers 0-4.
The Stags led the Tabbies 9-1 after two innings, but the St. Albert crew scored twice in the fifth, four times in the sixth and added three more in the seventh off starter Davin Gulbransen and reliever James Carr, who came in with the bases loaded and none way. A walk and an error plated the winning run.
“That’s a difficult one to handle,” said Stags manager Dan Zinger. “We didn’t have a lot of pitching options against them and we also didn’t give our pitchers much help. We had three double play balls in that game and didn’t convert any of them.
“Maybe we didn’t deserve to win that game, but we could have and that would have made things a lot easier for us. Right now we’re 3-1 which is fine, but we have two tough games Saturday and you never know what can happen.”
The Stags were able to shake off the loss and jumped into a 6-1 lead on the Redbirds after three innings. They added two more runs in the fifth before starter Aaron Tweet gave up a two-run home run to Junior Norris in the sixth and Chad Marchand allowed a pair of runs in the seventh. In fact the Redbirds had the bases loaded with only one away before Marchand got out of trouble.
“It was typical Stags style, allowing them to get the winning run on first base,” said Zinger.
One thing the Stags did do for most of the day Friday was hit the ball, finishing in double figures in both games.
Byron Whitford, Zinger and Kevin Curran had two hits each against the Tabbies while Zinger had a single and two doubles, Jason Fraser a double and a two-run home run and Jordan Reiter a single and a double in the nightcap.
On the other hand the Riggers struggled to get their bats going against the A’s, managing seven hits against starter Cory Kokotailo and reliever James Fisher, who came in with two on and none away in the seventh.
But while their bats were quiet against Kokotailo, who is far from a dominating left-hander, it was the Riggers defence that ultimately did them in. They kicked the ball six times — three of which came in the four-run fifth inning that saw the As grab a 7-4 lead.
“We did a lot of things wrong,” said Riggers GM Dwayne Lalor.
“We didn’t catch it and we didn’t hit it either. Cory did a good job of throwing strikes for the most part but we didn’t square it up. We made it tough on ourselves with our defence and you can’t do that against a very good team.”
Brent Lazzarotto started for the Riggers and while he wasn’t sharp for the second straight game, he only allowed two earned runs, both in the fourth. Joel Peterman came on to get the final out in the fifth and worked a pair of scoreless innings to finish the game.
Delton Kruk had three hits and Curtis Bailey two for the Riggers, who got an excellent pitching effort from James Dykstra in the win over the Tigers, allowing three hits.
On the other side the Riggers got to Tigers starter Derek Dallorto for eight hits and three runs over 4 2/3 innings and added a run in the sixth off Zack Murray.
Kerry Boon and catcher Grant Kveder, a pickup from Lethbridge, had two hits each for the Riggers.
“That was a solid effort and win we needed,” said Lalor. “We’re 2-2 which could be better, but it’s up to us to get the job done Saturday.”
• Action runs all day today with the semifinals set for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday and the final at 4 p.m.