The Red Deer Riggers will be heading into the post-season with all of the momentum on their side after winning their home tournament last weekend.
The home team posted a perfect 4-0 record in the 36th annual installment of the eight team Red Deer tournament, which took place from Friday through Sunday at Great Chief Park last weekend.
“It was a really, really good weekend. We got four wins and you know we kind of had to battle in some games and we were down in some games and had to battle back. It was just a good effort by everybody,” said Riggers’ Head Coach and shortstop Jason Chatwood, whose team recently clinched first place in the Sunburst Baseball League with a 16-1 overall record.
Red Deer kicked off the tournament in a big way last Friday night as they posted a convincing 10-0 win over the Calgary Cardinals of the Foothills Major Baseball Association, ending the game in six innings.
Riggers starting pitcher Tyler Vavra stood tall on the mound, allowing just one hit and no runs in six innings of work for the complete game shutout.
“He was very, very good on the mound,” Chatwood said of the starter, adding the Riggers’ offense also came through in a big way.
“We had some clutch hits when we needed to and played a solid game and took advantage of some of their mistakes.”
From that point on there was no looking back for the hosts, as they carried that momentum into Saturday evening’s game against Sunburst League rivals, the Confederation Park Cubs.
“It was the same thing. It was a close game throughout most of the game and then near the end we had solid pitching, again from Dustin Northcott. We needed a run at the end there but we found a way and got it done,” said Chatwood of the slightly closer 5-3 win, which clinched a berth in Sunday’s playoff round.
After the dust settled on the round-robin portion of the tournament, just four of the eight teams remained to compete for the title, with the Cubs taking on the Sherwood Park Athletics, who are the second place team in the Sunburst League, in one semi-final game and the Riggers squaring off with the St. Albert Tigers in the other.
“The same kind of thing happened with us with the Tigers. We had solid pitching throughout the whole weekend and we got our hits and our runs when we needed to and we made the big plays when we needed to,” Chatwood remarked about the semi-final game, in which the Riggers came away with a 6-2 victory thanks, in part, to the arm of Josh Edwards.
That win set up a showdown between the top two teams in the Sunburst League that would not only potentially be a preview of this year’s league finals, but also a grudge match between two bitter rivals.
You see, it was the A’s that handed the Riggers their one and only loss this season, toppling the then undefeated team 6-4 earlier this month.
On the other side, it was the Riggers who, last week, killed the A’s last hope of winning first place after knocking off their rivals 10-9 last Wednesday. With all of the bad blood between the two teams, it’s no wonder the game turned out to be one of the closest of the tournament.
“The final sounded like it was a pretty scrappy game. They’d get up and then we’d battle back and then they’d go up and we’d battle back,” Chatwood said.
It was a back and forth affair, with both teams scoring in bunches.
The Riggers jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the second inning, but the A’s battled back and put up five runs of their own in the third to take a 6-4 lead. But the Riggers battled back, posting five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to go up 9-6.
The A’s didn’t waste any time tying it up, though, scoring three runs in the top of the fifth to even things out in the seven inning contest. In the end, though, the Riggers found a way to win, scoring Edwards on an error after having advanced him into scoring position with a well timed bunt by Jaret Chatwood.
The single run was all the home team would need to secure the victory as closer Drew Boyer came in to slam the door in the seventh, sitting down all three batters he faced to seal the deal and pick up the save. Reliever Joel Peterman was the pitcher of record in the win.
Final score – 10-9 Riggers.
“I think it’s pretty exciting. We had some really good crowds for it throughout the weekend, for all of our games. A lot of people came out and we had some awesome weather. It was some good baseball and it’s always nice to win your home tournament,” Chatwood said.
He added with just one game remaining in the regular season and first place already locked up, the Riggers will now turn their attention to preparing for the playoffs.
“This week we had such a busy week. Guys are going to need a little bit of rest and we’ve got some guys that might be a little bit banged up. They just kind of need to take care of their bodies. I’m sure guys are going to spend some time, enjoy some time off with family. We’ll have a couple of practices and gear up for Friday.”
While it’s not yet clear which team the Riggers will be taking on in the first round of playoffs, Chatwood said the team is taking a wait and see approach.
“Things are just settling in in the standings as far as who we’ll face in the first round. It looks like it’ll either be the Cubs or the Tigers.”
The Red Deer Riggers’ final game of the regular season will be this Friday when they travel to Spruce Grove to take on the Parkland White Sox. Game time is 7 p.m.