The Red Deer Riggers have played the Confederation Cubs out of Edmonton four league games in a row since June 11th, three of them coming within the last two weeks.
The Riggers have gone 2-2 with the Cubs in that span, with the teams splitting their games last week with the Riggers winning last Tuesday 12-4, and the Cubs taking the Sunday game 12-6.
Shortstop and Manager Jason Chatwood said the schedule worked out like this due to weather issues and the series with the Cubs felt like a playoff atmosphere.
“The first two we were able to get up early and managed to keep the lead and then Sunday night, we tried to battle back but just couldn’t close the gap,” he said. “That is the last time we will see them in league play, which isn’t necessarily a nice thing, but we have seen them so much lately that we are looking forward to the tournament this week to see some different teams. It felt like it was playoffs. We saw them so often that you get that feeling when you are facing the same team.”
Chatwood noted the Riggers need to ensure they can score runs early in order to close out games.
“It is one of those things where the bounces go your way and sometimes they don’t,” he said. “You have to keep plugging away and jumping out to an early lead helps you take advantage and helps pitches get comfortable. The big thing is scoring early.”
The Riggers, after missing so many games due to the weather, now go on to have two weeks filled with baseball.
“This week and next week are very busy,” Chatwood said. “We have a couple make up games, the (Riggers) tournament and we have an exhibition game with Team Alberta. The guys are looking forward to consistently getting to the field. Sometimes, with the way the weather has been, you play and then you don’t play for 10 days.”
The Riggers’ tournament this weekend will have over 10 games in three days being played, with each game being a condensed seven innings. Chatwood added Great Chief Park will have a full house over the weekend.
“Red Deer Minor Ball has a lot going on as well, so every field is in use this weekend,” he said. “It will be a busy weekend and we have some good teams coming. All of our league teams are coming, as well as a Calgary team and the number one midget AAA team in the province coming as well. It will good to have different competition.”
The tournament could also be reasonably lucrative for the winning squad.
“It will be good competitive ball and there is a good pay out. Teams are playing for some pretty good money,” he said. “Hopefully the sun is shining and there will be concession and beer gardens as well. It should be a fun weekend.”
Chatwood said it is important for the Riggers to bring in young baseball fans.
“You want to have a weekend that people can go. With the night games, it gets a little late for kids to come. You want to get kids out and watching. Kids get in for free and it is a good opportunity for them,” he said.
The Riggers, according to Chatwood, are heading into this weekend in a real comfortable position.
“The guys are starting to get enough reps and are feeling comfortable,” he said. “That is good for us. Regardless of how the season goes, it really matters how you finish. That is our goal – to be ready to go come playoff time. A tournament like this helps us. It is a similar format to nationals, where the games are seven innings. We have to jump out early, score early and have solid defence and pitching. It is good for our preparation into August and nationals.”
Chatwood feels confident the Riggers’ bullpen will be prepared for some tight late innings down the stretch.
“We have some guys in our bullpen who are keen on that role,” he said. “They know they coming in for one or two innings to shut it down. They strive in those situations and they aren’t scared about pitching when there is runners on base. There has been lots of ground balls. There isn’t a whole bunch left in the season so the guys are excited and gearing up for playoffs.”