St. Albert's bantam AAA Cardinals have won five straight in regular season play after defeating the South Edmonton Elite Baseball Association (SEEBA) on Thursday.
With the 12-7 win against SEEBA, St. Albert improved to 9-1 on the season and 11-2 overall including tournament action, with that sole tournament loss at the hands of the Spruce Grove White Sox. The Cardinals' last loss was May 11 in Spruce Grove also against the White Sox.
The Cardinals chipped away at SEEBA, earning six runs in three innings. Chance Wheatley started things off in the first inning by scoring off a hit by Nolan Laderoute. The Comox, B.C. native was later brought home by St. Albert starting pitcher Nolan Werre.
Marcus Blair scored on an errant pitch in the second to put St. Albert up 3-0. In the third, Laderoute's triple scored Wheatley, while Werre's single brought in Laderoute. Werre tallied as SEEBA defenders were distracted by Jeff Harrison's attempt to steal second.
SEEBA thundered back in the fourth with six runs. Carter Robinson and Jacob Narbonne scored on RBI singles and Brett Semeniuk with a pair, while Narbonne and Brenden Wiun reached on errors.
St. Albert starting pitcher Nolan Werre allowed one earned run in 4.2 innings of play and was relieved by Andrew Kotscherofski with the score 6-2.
“We were just down a little bit,” said Laderoute who played three years with Spruce Grove in peewee AAA. “Pitchers weren't doing their best and we had to bring it up a little. We got the lead and kind of gave up, got down on ourselves a little bit. It was pretty good to come back and build the lead again and win.”
“We have to learn that when you get a bit of a lead ... the natural thing that can happen is you become less focused,” added head coach Greg Reiniger. “And it comes back to bite you. It's something to learn from. I was happy that we responded in the next half and scored a couple to regain the lead. But hopefully they learn and understand you can't take the foot off the gas when you have teams down.”
St. Albert rebounded in the bottom half of the fourth, Wheatley dropping a single for an RBI and Laderoute out-racing a throw to first to save an out and bring in Wheatley to make it 8-6.
Boyd Classen reached on an error in the top of the fifth to put SEEBA within one. But the bottom frame saw St. Albert add another four runs, including a three-RBI double by Wheatley and one RBI by Laderoute on a double.
The game was called after the top of the sixth due to time and darkness.
Laderoute and the rest of the club are hoping the lesson from the near-comeback by SEEBA stays with them this weekend as the Cardinals head south for two doubleheaders against Okotoks and Calgary.
“We need to not quit on ourselves when we have a big lead and keep our confidence up when we're struggling,” said Laderoute.
“Just staying focused,” added Reiniger. “The hardest time to stay focused is when you have the lead. A six-run lead isn't insurmountable. You should remain focused. That's a bit natural, though.”
With production like what he saw from Wheatley and Laderoute on Thursday, Reiniger is less worried about the offensive side of the ball than the defensive. Heading into the four-game weekend, he'll continue to preach that as he gives his players one more 'easier' weekend.
“Chance, all year long he's been crazy. He's hitting close to .500, he's leading the team in every offensive category you can lead a team in. The ball is very large for him right now, so hopefully he doesn't wake up. Nolan, we're expecting big things from him. And so far he's delivering.
“I'm expecting that we will play well. (Calgary and Okotoks) are teams that we should beat, but if you come out flat against any team they can beat you. Our goal again is to get as many pitchers as we can. Eventually we'll have to pare that down a bit. We're going to treat this weekend as the last bit of spring training kind of thing.”
After the game, Reiniger continued a new tradition this season with his players. Former Cardinal Landon Burt passed away last month after a 15-month battle with brain cancer. In his honour as a player, mentor and coach for two years, Reiniger began the Landon Burt Award of Courage.
A process similar to what some college clubs do, after every week or two, Reiniger will give Landon Burt Award stickers to players for exceptional performance on the field in categories not just statistical, but also the unsung details like sacrifice bunts and great defensive plays.
Laderoute was among many recipients on Wednesday, earning a pair of stickers for his on-base percentage and batting average.