The pressure will be on the St. Albert Tabbies this weekend as a league game earlier in the week will also double as a tournament game this morning.
In their previous two games, the junior AAA team was defeated by the Red Deer Stags 3-1 June 18 at Great Chief Park and was victorious over the Edmonton Angels 4-2 Tuesday at John Fry Park.
The Tabbies (5-4) are currently behind the Fort Saskatchewan Athletics by 3.5 games in the Sunburst Baseball League.
“We played well,” head coach Buddy Beley said of his squad's effort against the Stags. “Our pitchers definitely gave us a chance to win. I think we stranded about 16 base runners and turned about six double plays. We definitely played well enough to win; we just couldn't produce when we got guys on base. Their guy threw a complete game at us. He did well.”
It was a bit more of a controlled performance by the Tabbies against the Angels, but the offence deserted the juniors after they racked up a 3-0 lead in the first inning.
“We didn't get done what we needed to, stranding a bunch of runners. We didn't play our A-game in order to put them away early. We let them back in. We played well defensively. Myles Shaw threw a complete game for us, kept the balls down and they hit into a few double plays. He did a great job.”
On Wednesday the Tabbies were due to play against the north-leading Athletics but chose to rest their players and heal some injuries. The result is doubling up today’s match against the Athletics as both a league and tournament game in Fort Saskatchewan.
“Would I have loved to play them at our diamond? Yes,” said Beley. “But this is going to work out fine. We have to win two games this weekend to get into a final so there definitely will be pressure to play against those guys.”
On June 10 the Tabbies were mercied by the Athletics 10-0 in league play, but rebounded in the Tigers Baseball Association tournament last weekend to win 6-5 in extra innings.
Knowing they can beat the best team in the league is a boon to the Tabbies’ confidence, but there are still some hard feelings from getting mercied. That motivation, combined with the extra pressure of today's game counting as two, will likely ramp up the intensity for both sides.
“I suspect they will come after us harder than they have before,” said Beley. “Hopefully our guys can come after them as well.
“After they mercied us the first time and us to come back and beat them, it should definitely give us the confidence. Our guys are playing the level of game we're capable of playing. It'll be hard for any club in the league to beat us. But we have to play that way. Sometimes we get lackadaisical and aren't committed to every inning.”
With the tournament fielding fewer teams than the Tigers' tourney, the Tabbies will have to beat the Fort and the Calgary Cardinals for a berth in the final. Beley's plan of action is simple — get the players serious about winning the weekend.
“I have to say, ‘Listen guys, we have to stay up for every game and no matter who we play we have to play our game.’ It's tough when you have a roster as deep as I do. Sometimes they get a little lazy. A lot of college players are looking to have fun this summer, but I have to keep them dialled in.”
The Tabbies were on the road last night to face the Red Deer Riggers. The score was unavailable at press time.
Today's game against the Athletics begins at 11 a.m., followed by a 2 p.m. match against Calgary. On Sunday the Tabbies will play the Angels at 11 a.m. to close out round robin play.