After an extra-inning victory over the Spruce Grove White Sox, the St. Albert bantam AAA Cardinals are within seven games of the western qualifier.
Including tournament play, the Cardinals are now 4-2 against the White Sox this year after Tuesday’s 9-8 win at Legion Memorial Field.
The victory came on the heels of back-to-back victories against the Red Deer Braves by scores of 2-1 and 17-7. Head coach Greg Reiniger said the second game, despite appearing to be a blowout, was far from it. “In the first ball game ... we are having a tough time right now hitting breaking balls. The kid that pitched for them in the first game had a good breaking ball. We have to work on it. Our pitchers pitched well. It was a good, tight ball game,” he said.
“First game was pretty bad because we didn't hit,” added pitcher Marcus Blair. “We weren't hitting at all. We somehow pulled out a victory because our pitching was good. In game two our bats came alive and our pitching was still good.
“In the second game, it was tight until the fifth then the bats came alive. It looks like a blowout. But our sticks have been inconsistent since the Regina tournament. If it's going to happen, it may as well happen now but it's still a little frustrating.”
Spruce Grove walked two batters and struck out four, allowing 10 hits and four errors. St. Albert walked five, struck out seven and allowed 10 hits and two errors.
Blair earned the save, stepping in for the top the fifth inning and struck out three batters in the top of the ninth to set the stage for Connor Girard reaching on an error in the bottom.
“There was no pressure on my mind,” said Blair. “I just wanted to throw strikes and it turned out good. Our bats could have been better. We got off lucky at the end.”
“Blair did a great job,” added Reiniger. “Starter Joe Pasychnyk had an OK outing, too many walks and didn't get ahead enough. But he left the game only giving up two runs. Marcus came in and did a great job. He hasn't pitched as much, but he's been effective when he's come in.”
Girard had rounded the bag at second base and was on his way to third when Logan Seifrit corralled the ball at first. The White Sox third baseman was unable to make the catch on a hard throw from Seifrit, allowing Girard to score.
St. Albert opened the scoring in the bottom of the first on an RBI by Girard. Spruce Grove evened it up in the second but St. Albert pulled ahead again in the bottom half with Nolan Laderoute scoring on error.
Again the visiting team tied it in the top of the third. In the bottom of the fourth, the Cardinal bats brought in another three. The White Sox tallied four in the top of the fifth to go ahead 6-5. A three-run bottom half with Laderoute, Nolan Werre and Blair each earning RBIs, put the Cardinals ahead 8-6.
The White Sox notched an inside-the-park home run against Blair to score two and tie things up.
“Anytime you can battle, regardless of how, that's a good sign,” said Reiniger. “I'm just not crazy about the fact it had to happen. But it shows perseverance and hopefully we learn from it. At some point we're going to get into tournaments when we can't afford to be in this situation.”
“Lefty (Blair) came in and did a good job,” added Girard. “He came in down a run and got a bunch of strikeouts for us and pitched a good game.”
For Reiniger the most important issue with seven games left before the western qualifier tournament is discipline in the batter’s box, which he says is inconsistent due to confidence issues at the plate.
“We didn't hit very many balls hard. Too many flies. We are still in a situation where our concentration at the plate isn't where it needs to be. We're still swinging at pitches we shouldn't be swinging at. We were better, but instead of [the count] being 2-1, it's 1-2 because we chase something and now you're hitting defensively.
The Cardinals hosts Red Deer (2 p.m.) and Calgary (5 p.m.) today at Legion field. Sunday’s game times at home against Foothills are 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.