Nearly identical scores cut both ways as the St. Albert senior Tigers split the weekend against the Fort Saskatchewan Athletics and Edmonton Rockies.
The reigning league champion Athletics held a clinic in their 11-2 victory over the Tigers on Friday night at Legion Memorial Park.
Saturday afternoon the Tigers rebounded and put together a lesson plan of their own against the Edmonton Rockies, defeating the host club at John Fry Park 12-1.
Craig Tomas earned the win, allowing one run in five innings of play after the game was called due to the mercy rule. Tomas walked and struck out six. His counterpart Mike McKinnon walked eight and struck out one, allowing 11 earned runs.
“We didn't hit [against the Fort], flat out,” said manager Kurtis Millar, who drew into the Rockies contest due to injuries in the Tigers' line-up. “We had one terrible inning that cost us. We kicked around the ball a little bit. Karnie Vertz threw a good game for them. He challenged us and he won. He was coming first-pitch fastball a lot of the time and we didn't swing it.
“We had a long chat. Guys just need to relax. Chill out, get loose out there, have a good at-bat. That's our biggest thing. If we can stay consistent at the plate we'll be fine. The biggest problem is we get a couple runs scored on us and it's like we're in the seventh game of the World Series.”
Brandon Barr, who got his first hit of the season after struggling early on and earned a joking slow clap from his teammates for the tally, added that the Tigers have been too quick to take themselves out of the game after falling behind on the scoreboard.
“We put the bat on the ball, but we hit it right at guys. When they hit it, they got base hits. We started to get down on ourselves and get depressed a bit and when that happens, it's tougher to put things together.
“Vertz definitely got a good fastball. When he established that, it sets up his slider and his changeup to keep you off balance. Guys start to grip the bats tighter and that's what you have to come to expect.”
St. Albert opened the scoring in the top of the second versus the Rockies with Joey Carr slapping a fastball to left field to bring in Sean Maguire.
The Tigers added another three in the top of the third with Millar's bunt and Maguire's crack up the middle both earning RBIs, while Dan McDonald reached on a missed pitch.
Another pair of runs in the top of the fourth including a home run by Carr and a McDonald RBI double, expanded the Tigers’ lead to 6-0.
Everitt Crosby drove in the Rockies’ only run.
An explosive fifth inning sealed the game for the Tigers. McDonald's line drive to left field, a centre field single by Barr and John McHuge's left field single each drove in a run, while Millar cracked a double to the centre field fence and brought in three runs.
Not bad for Millar's first game of the year.
“I thought I'd give her a chance. I was seeing the ball well for the first game. Unfortunately for him he threw one right down the middle and I got a hold of it. It felt good.
“I don’t think we should have allowed the run. Craig threw a good game. He's always around the strike zone. He's got that tailing fastball that makes it a bit tricky to hit some days and it was moving good. Defence was there and with a bunch of pitchers in the line-up today they came out and were three for four at the plate. Pretty good job to see the everyday guys pick it up a bit.”
“It was unbelievable,” remarked Barr of the performance of Tiger pitchers and his manager Millar filling in. “When you have guys like that who can just step in ... we have some quality pitchers, and when they can step in and fill the role of a position player it really helps out.”
The Tigers have a layoff until June 16 when they'll face the junior Tabbies at Legion field in St. Albert for a rematch of the 5-2 Tabbies win on May 29th. Millar will continue preaching relaxation in hopes of coming out with a victory next week.
“Make your plays, have good at bats, that's the key. If they hit a ball, we have to hit a ball harder. The biggest thing is we get too tense too fast. We have a great line-up, so we might as well go out there and have some fun.”