IT’S GONE! - From right

Red Deer Riggers start season off strong

The Red Deer Riggers had the bats going early and often last week, as they cruised to a 10-1 victory over the Parkland White Sox on opening day of the 2016 Sunburst Baseball League season.

Red Deer’s Senior AAA baseball team exploded for seven runs with two out in the fourth inning on the way to the lopsided win.

“We had a good start early with a couple of runs, a couple of good bats and then (Parkland) had a couple of tough plays and we got a couple of extra outs,” said Riggers’ Head Coach and shortstop Jason Chatwood after last week’s game at Great Chief Park.

Chatwood, who is in his first year as the head coach of the ball club, said that the big win was a good way to get the new season started.

“It’s still the first game of the year. We had a good night but I think everyone’s still rusty and it’s our first time being out on the field live for the season. For the first game of the year you don’t expect some balls to be hit that hard, really. It’s awesome,” Chatwood said.

The Riggers’ lineup made a good impression right off the hop.

Starting pitcher Josh Edwards had his good stuff in the first inning, striking out his first two batters in just his first nine pitches before surrendering the first hit of the ball game to White Sox shortstop David Cooper on a bunt.

Unfortunately for Edwards, the White Sox’s ability to manufacture runs came into play immediately afterwards.

Cooper, a fairly quick player, managed to steal his way into scoring position on the next pitch and was summarily driven in by a single into right field by White Sox third baseman Brad Michaleski.

Edwards was not phased, however, and forced the very next batter to ground out to third.

The Riggers struggled to get anything going in the bottom of the first, though, and were retired in short order after recording just a single hit, an infield single by lead off man Kevin Curran.

The second inning saw the Riggers’ defense and pitching put to the test once again. White Sox first baseman put some pressure on early when he took an 0-1 pitch deep and off the fence in centre field for a no-out triple to kick off the second frame.

Red Deer’s big lefty on the mound showed no signs of nervousness, though, as he retired the next three batters to escape from the inning unscathed.

Overall, Edwards went three innings, surrendering just three hits and one earned run with three strikeouts.

In fact, the entire Riggers pitching staff were on their game, which allowed the Red Deer bats an opportunity to really run up the score.

“Everyone got ahead in the count early, threw lots of strikes and got them swinging at their pitches. We had five guys come in tonight and they all looked really, really efficient,” said Chatwood, noting that the team is trying to keep pitch count down in the early parts of the season, hence the short outings.

“It worked out. Everyone looked sharp, like really sharp for the first game of the year, which is exciting because as you keep playing more, guys will get a little more enduranced and get ready to go. Especially to stretch those pitchers out later on in the year, it will be huge.”

The Riggers’ offense managed to make some noise in the bottom of the second inning when they picked up a couple of runs on a single hit after a hit batter RBI and a sacrifice fly by Denver Wik to take the lead in the ball game.

All was quiet on the score sheet after that until the bottom of the fourth inning.

The inning didn’t get off to the greatest of starts for the Riggers. Kerry Boon hit into a double play after catcher Jarret Chatwood managed to get on first base on an error for the first two outs.

But then the big bats came up to play.

“The right part of our lineup came up at the right time and a couple of big swings kind of back to back and all of a sudden it’s seven runs in the fourth inning,” said Chatwood of the inning.

After that it was like the bases were some kind of running track as the Riggers base runners circled them.

An RBI walk with the bases loaded by Chatwood got the ball rolling on the scoring for Red Deer. Immediately afterwards, Aaron Dunsmore smacked a bases-clearing double into left-centre field to score a trio of runs for the home team.

Just one batter later, after first baseman Jason Lewis advanced to first on a hit by pitch, newcomer third baseman JP Wilner stepped up to the plate and cranked a towering three-run homer over the left field fence.

“It was a 2-0 fastball right down the middle and I didn’t miss it. It felt pretty good,” said the Regina-born right handed batter, who also played some college ball in the States before playing last season with the Saskatoon Smokin’ Guns and connecting with the Riggers at nationals last year.

“It’s been fortunate. I’ve been fortunate and I’m glad the season’s underway.”

The seven runs scored in the fourth was more than enough to secure the win for the Riggers, who added one more in the fifth inning for the 10-1 win.

The Red Deer Riggers played their last home game last night, Tuesday, at Great Chief Park against the Sherwood Park Athletics. The game was not over at press time.

Their next game will be on May 27th, when the Riggers head out to Spruce Grove for a rematch with the White Sox. The first pitch on that one will be thrown at 6:45 p.m.

zcormier@reddeerexpress.com

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