The first pitch of the St. Albert Tigers’ season was thrown on Thursday and the home team made no mistake in coming out victorious.
The Tigers defeated the Edmonton Rockies by a score of 11-0 at Legion Memorial Field in St. Albert, with only one error on defence.
Edmonton managed only one hit in the losing effort, walking 12 batters while both squads struck out three each. Ten of St. Albert's runs came off 6 hits, and one reached on an error.
“It was great,” said coach Kurtus Millar. “Their guys came out and hit two hard ground balls right off the start, our guys picked them up, threw it out. It was the perfect start.”
“We kind of took the game to get our feet under us with some of the new guys,” added pitcher Derek Dallorto. “We came out swinging, got started with Craig [Tomas] on the mound, then our at-bat we led off with a walk and went from there.”
With a runner at third at the top of the first, Tomas threw a strikeout to bring St. Albert to the plate. Two consecutive walks, a single and another walk allowed Joe Carr to pound a ball to left-centre field to bring in Luc Riopel and Danny Mikitka. A sacrifice hit brought Carr home, and an errant throw allowed Dan Curtis to score to put the Tigers up 4-0.
“Both their pitchers had good velocity, they just weren't getting their spots,” said Millar of the 12 total walks the Rockies threw. “When they did, our guys were waiting for it. They're going to be an all-right team, they're pretty young yet. If they stick with it, they should do okay.”
In the third Brad Wolansky hit the gap to left field to score two, a double by John McHugh scored Kevin Hardman and Riopel and a single by Mikitka brought home McHugh to expand the lead to nine runs.
Dallorto started the fourth inning and threw three straight grounders to bring the Tigers sticks to work again. Wolansky again found a gap to score Carr and Mikitka to make the score 11-0.
It was just the kind of effort the Tigers wanted to start off with to continue building the chemistry that formed towards the end of last season.
“It's a different atmosphere this year,” said Millar. “Guys are a lot more fired up. I think losing last year in the finals kind of pissed everyone else off. We're fired up, and that's good and we can build from here.”
Heading into Tuesday's contest against the Red Deer Riggers, Millar is primarily looking to get his pitchers 30 to 35 throws a game, keep them loose and warm them up before starting to extend their time on the bump.
“Basically all the positions are already set. The next couple weeks we’ll be getting our top pitchers three innings here and there, keeping everyone nice and loose. That's the biggest thing with us. If we stay consistent, we'll be fine.”
“I was pretty happy we only had one error tonight.”
Dallorto said it was one of the better starts the Tigers have come out with in memory, and one of the better showings he's put on the mound early in the season. After struggling with minor injuries the past few years, Dallorto's throwing arm is healthy and it showed. In three innings of play, he went three-up and three-down twice, allowed one hit and struck out one batter.
“It's one of those things, you get a few times out throwing and things come together,” said Dallorto. “I've been taking care of the arm. Last year was one of those things where you work really hard and do it for your team. This year I get up there and I got lots of confidence. Any one of our catchers, I'm comfortable with and watch the game play itself out.”
“I'm sure lots of guys will be sore and Red Deer will be a good test. We're going to see some good pitching, some guys that can throw.”
Game starts on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Great Chief Field in Red Deer.