The St. Albert Cardinals are up to bat Thursday as Team Alberta at the Baseball Canada 18U championship in London, Ont.
In pool B, the Cardinals swing into action against British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
Friday the Cardinals play Manitoba and the last game before the playoffs is against Prince Edward Island on Saturday.
Pool A consists of Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Ontario, Quebec and the host London Badgers.
Visit baseball.ca for the tournament website.
The Baseball Alberta 18U AAA Tier I champions are competing in their second-consecutive nationals and third since the 2014 silver medallists at Magog, Que.
At last year's nationals in Fort McMurray, four consecutive wins in five games sent the Cardinals into the medal round, but losses of 1-0 to London (Ont. 1) and 11-1 to Quebec resulted in a fourth-place finish.
London (5-1) repeated as national champions by defeating the Etobicoke (Ont. 2) Rangers 5-4 in the final after beating the Cardinals by scoring one run in the top of six as the lead-off batter reached first base on an error and with one out scored from third base on a sacrifice fly to left field.
This year, with 10 returnees, the Cardinals placed second in the Norwest league at 27-8 and at provincials in Sherwood Park went 5-0 as the first 18U AAA Tier I team to repeat since Okotoks Dawgs Black in 2011-12.
The senior AA St. Albert Cardinals will have to wait until next year to make their first playoff appearance in the North Central Alberta Baseball League.
Monday’s tiebreaker for the fourth and final playoff berth ended with the Cardinals going down to defeat 9-1 to the Westlock Red Lions at Legion Memorial Park.
The loss was the fourth in a row after winning six straight.
The third setback in three days was 10-0 Thursday in Westlock that created a three-way tie for third place between the Edmonton Primeaus, Red Lions and Cardinals at 11-9-1.
The Primeaus were awarded a semifinal berth based on their head-to-head record against both teams.
Monday’s tiebreaker marked the third consecutive year the Red Lions and Cardinals went head-to-head for a playoff spot.
Last year the Cardinals (11-10) fell 5-4 to the Red Lions in St. Albert in the second-last game of the regular season and two years ago lost the tiebreaker 4-1 at Westlock after both teams finished in a three-way deadlock with the Primeaus for the last playoff berth with 8-8 records.
Monday’s game was also the 19th in 13 days for Cardinals’ head coach Jason Enright, who also coached the junior AAA and 18U AA Cardinals this year.
Third place was the order of finish for the St. Albert Cardinals at the 21U westerns last weekend in Saskatoon.
The Cardinals finished 2-2 in the five-team westerns, which also equalled the junior AAA team’s record at the Baseball Alberta championship tournament.
Westerns started with the 5-4 win against the Interlake Blue Jays (0-4), based in Stonewall, Man., followed by the 10-0 loss to the host Saskatoon Hoppers (4-1).
The next game was the 6-5 walkoff victory in the bottom of seven against the Innisfail Merchants (2-2) before the tournament wrapped up with the Cardinals losing 3-2 to the Elmwood Giants (3-2) of Winnipeg.
The final was 12-2 for Saskatoon over Elmwood.
It was the second westerns in a row for the Cardinals as the Baseball Alberta 21U finalists. This year’s provincials ended with Innisfail winning 5-3 in an extra inning after a 1-1 score through seven innings and last year’s setback was 13-7 against Innisfail.
Both years the Cardinals were ranked No. 1 in the provincial draws.
The Cardinals also hosted the 2018 western tournament that was rained out before pool play could be completed.
The Cardinals' record in league play was 11-7 for a share of first place with Innisfail (11-8) and against their league rivals won three out of five games and all the scores were decided by one run.
Last year the Cardinals (16-6) and Innisfail (10-6) placed first and third, respectively, in the standings.