Mother Nature doesn't seem to want to say 'play ball' quite yet as the annual St. Albert Early Bird tournament had its championship games postponed Monday morning.
Future dates to settle the remainder of the tournament have not yet been announced.
The bantam AAA Cardinals were ousted by the Spruce Grove White Sox 6-2 in elimination play after defeating the Okotoks Dawgs and Sherwood Park Athletics 17-0 and 16-11 respectively in the round robin.
Logan Seifrit of the Sox pitched five innings against the Cards, and the remaining two innings weren't enough for the Red Birds to mount a comeback and continue deeper into the tournament.
Meanwhile the midget AA Cardinals battled their way to the championship game, which was set for Monday morning against the South Jasper Place Jays (SJP).
The double-A squad defeated the Jays 14-12 in the first game of the round robin, a game where head coach Jesse Beley said the Cardinals were still struggling to find their groove in a free-for-all tilt at the plate.
“We didn't play our best baseball, but we played good enough to win. I feel that SJP kind of beat themselves up but I did like the way our boys battled back.
“Our pitchers needed to throw more strikes and our hitters made a better adjustment at the plate, which they've been struggling with in previous games. The boys had a lot of adrenaline due to playing at the home park.”
Next up for the Cards was Sherwood Park, a team that won both previous contests in regular season play last week (5-4 and 7-4). St. Albert responded by posting a 7-2 win with pitcher Brandon Robbins at the helm.
“It's a game I wanted these boys to play for the longest time,” said Beley. “I think we played to our full potential that game. We struggled the previous games and our hitters were stronger and Brandon threw phenomenally.
“When he's on the hill, I think our team gets a bit more energy. Our goal this whole year has been nothing but Westerns. And I think that game showed the Park that they didn't beat us the first two times, we beat ourselves and that we're here to compete.”
The first game of elimination play nearly saw the midget AA squad ousted by Drayton Valley. Beley said his team has been playing down to teams, a habit that could impede its goal of making it to the Westerns.
“Drayton, we just didn't play our best ball at all. Against lower squads, we haven't been playing our true Cardinal baseball and doing the little things right. Drayton's a team we should beat handily with the talent we have our team. I don't think we came out ready to play.”
Perhaps inspired by how close they came to losing against the Valley, the Red Birds bounced back with a dominating 14-1 performance over Sherwood Park.
“We knew we had to get after it. We can't just cakewalk over teams, we have to work hard. That last game, the sticks came alive. The previous games against them, they've been really cold.”
That kind of momentum is something Beley was hoping to carry into Monday until a light snowfall and cold temperatures interfered.
Regardless of when the championship game gets rescheduled, the chemistry built by an early season tournament such as the Early Bird will prove invaluable down the line for the AA squad. And they'll get another look at SJP this Saturday as regular season action resumes.
“It's always tough after you play one of your best baseball games. I know the boys want to get back on the field and go right at it. Mother Nature isn't very nice. I think this is a turning point in our season and the boys know if they play and swing the bats like that, we have a good chance of ultimately reaching our goal of Westerns.
“We've got a very close-knit team. We haven't played great baseball at the start, we didn't have a good first weekend. We expect a lot more out of our team and they expect a lot more of themselves. It was good to realize that with all the hard work we've been doing in practice that it will pay off in the end.”
First pitch against the A's is at noon out in Sherwood Park.