The Red Deer Riggers are en route to Baseball Canada’s 2017 Men’s National Championships after winning the Alberta provincial championship in a best of five series against the Sherwood Park Athletics 3-1.
“It was awesome,” said Shortstop and Manager Jason Chatwood. “We knew it was going to be a long series with them and we knew it would be a battle. They kicked our butt the first game and then we played three tough games right in a row. We ended up winning all three and closed out the series out in Sherwood Park in Game 4.”
Chatwood felt the Riggers were able to refocus due to the dedication of this year’s squad.
“I thought that our whole mindset was team-first,” he said. “No one cared about who got credit and we did the little things right. We had solid pitching and our defence was good.
“We did all the little things as hitters — we bunted when we needed to bunt and we managed to get the ball in play. Our goal was to score a run every inning and we had some really unselfish at-bats. That was huge for us and we made it really hard on their pitchers.”
The Riggers could have easily gone onto lose provincials after a tough to swallow the first game loss.
“I thought about that,” Chatwood said. “The way we lost was because nothing went right for us that game. They handed it to us. For us as a team, I felt it was easy to get over losing that way then it would have been in a 4-3 loss because losing big meant we weren’t questioning plays or other little things during the game. They just beat us so it was easy to reset and focus on Game 2. We knew we had to win three out of the next four.
“They just beat us so it was easy to reset and focus on Game 2. We knew we had to win three out of the next four.”
Chatwood noted the competitiveness of the league this year has the potential to be a huge help at nationals this weekend in Victoria, running Aug. 24th-27th.
“I felt the league was competitive and there were lots of games throughout the year where either team could win,” he said. “Going into nationals, that last series against Sherwood Park is going to help us. Those tight games that we will see out there are the type where you need to score a run whenever you can.
“We got the invite to nationals as the second team, but the mindset for us now is that we know we deserve to be there.”
The nationals will be both familiar and new for many of the Riggers players, with the squad opening up on Thursday against Tecumseh, Ontario; followed by their Friday game against host Victoria.
“A lot of the same guys will be there,” Chatwood said. “A lot of us will recognize different names from each province. We still won’t know a lot about every team so a lot of it is about scouting when you can. If you get a chance to watch a team, you get out there. You can’t worry too much about what the other teams are doing — we have to focus on our task and playing our game. If we do that we will be successful regardless of which team we play.
“The level of competition out there is so good. We have to keep it basic and keep it simple. We have to go one game at a time.”
Chatwood feels if the Riggers follow this sequential formula, they will be able to find success.
“Everyone goes to win the tournament — you want to win that national championship — but to be successful it has to be one game at a time,” he explained. “In a tournament format, you have to get hot a the right time; you have to get lucky; you have to have good pitching and you have to have timely hitting.”
Whatever the outcome, Chatwood said the Riggers are proud to represent their community.
“For us, our guys are pretty proud to represent Red Deer on the national stage,” he said. “The Riggers have a long history of going out there. Red Deer is definitely on the map in the senior men’s baseball stage. Our guys are proud to represent the Riggers who paved the way and obviously we are looking to pave the way for kids that are coming up.”
He added, “The team really appreciates all the support from Central Alberta throughout the year and in the playoffs. We had a lot of local support from sponsors and that goes a long way.”