A pair of back to back rain outs weren’t enough to cool down the red hot Red Deer Riggers.
Despite not playing a game since May 17th due to unfavourable weather, the Riggers didn’t miss a single step when they hosted the St. Albert Tigers at Great Chief Park, last week.
“I think everyone played a key role. We lost the games because of rain, lost some practices because of rain, so I don’t know if we’ve really been able to be out since last Tuesday. But the bats were good early and it was a solid game defensively,” said Riggers Player/Coach Jason Chatwood after the 9-6 win, which puts the Riggers at a perfect 3-0 record on the season.
It was another great team game for the Riggers, who have proven to be one of the best overall squads in the Sunburst Baseball League this season so far.
“The bats came out early. (Starting pitcher) Tyler (Vavra) pitched great for us, threw lots of strikes and then our bullpen came in and just kind of shut the door. It was huge,” Chatwood said.
An early scoring explosion and pitching dominance were the key for the Riggers, as their bats struck for a quartet of runs in the second inning to take the lead while Vavra, making his Riggers debut, stumped the St. Albert hitters time and again in the opening innings.
“The first three innings were good. I just got a little tired there in the fifth. It was my first time going above 75 pitches this year, so just getting used to that,” said the newcomer, who struck out four batters with nine hits and three earned runs in 4.1 innings pitched. He didn’t surrender a run until the fourth inning.
St. Albert wasn’t going to go down without a fight, though, as they took advantage of Vavra’s flagging arm to put up a quick run in the fourth and knocking in three runs before the Riggers decided to go to the pen, bringing in right hander Joel Peterman.
“They put some good swings on the ball and just found some holes. Tyler, I think, was maybe getting a little bit tired towards the end, there. But Joel (Peterman) came in and battled and we were able to get out of there,” Chatwood said.
Peterman was excellent in his 1.2 innings on the mound, surrendering no hits and striking out two batters to record the win.
The Tigers would manage just one more run in the fifth inning on a sac fly, leaving a man on third.
From there it came down to defense and relief pitching, as the Riggers completely shut down the opposing offense for most of the game.
“The bullpen just kind of shut them down and we scored a couple of runs when we needed to towards the end,” Chatwood said.
Five different pitchers, including Vavra and Peterman, made appearances for the Riggers on the night, combining for nine strike outs and allowing 11 hits with just three total earned runs.
On the other side of the ball, Red Deer’s offense recorded 11 hits of their own, but were able to take better advantage of the chances that they had with runners in scoring position.
“It was a tough game. Solid effort from everybody. You’re going to kind of have those games where you’re going to have to stay patient and grind it out. Everybody played a key role,” said Chatwood.
“They were good early and defense was really good.”
He added that despite the great start, the team isn’t going to get ahead of themselves.
Right now, he said, one of the main focuses is to make sure the club’s pitching staff are all getting innings.
“It’s frustrating with games getting spread out like that, especially for pitchers because you want to try to get them in but you can’t really stretch them out because you’ve got to try to get everyone in when you can.”
But things will even out pretty quickly for the Riggers’ pitching staff, as the team is gearing up for a busy week that includes a matchup with Sherwood Park, Wednesday night, before a league tournament on the weekend.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up. Guys will get their innings.”
The Riggers are back at home on June 14th when they take on the Confederation Cubs at Great Chief Park. That game gets underway at 7:30 p.m.