The winless St. Albert Tigers are hoping for a breakout performance during their home tournament this weekend at Legion Memorial Park.
The Sunburst Baseball League team sports a disappointing 0-3 record, with four games postponed because of rain or snow. The most recent loss was 13-6 Friday against the visiting Red Deer Riggers (3-1-1).
Centre-fielder Dan McDonald said the inclement weather had a big effect on the team’s play early in the season.
“It’s not professional baseball,” he said. “Guys aren’t able to play in the offseason as much as they would like to. They’re working and maybe playing other sports or whatever. You really need those practices and those early games to kind of get in your groove.”
The Tigers nearly won their first game of the year, but after taking a one-run lead into the ninth inning against the Riggers, gave up eight runs.
“To be honest, I think they found a few holes,” McDonald said. “I thought all of our pitchers there in the ninth inning, with [Craig] Tomas and [Sean] Maguire, they did a pretty good job. Sometimes, it’s just a little bit up to chance.”
Starting pitcher Derek Dallorto got off to a rough start, giving up four runs in the first inning alone. Already leading 1-0, Curtis Bailey knocked in two runs for Red Deer on an odd play. Bailey grounded the ball to the left side of the infield, it took a tough hop in front of shortstop John McHugh and after he got control of the ball, he tried to throw out Jaret Chatwood at home. The ball bounced past catcher Brad Wolansky, allowing two runs to score.
In the bottom of the opening inning, the Tigers had runners on first and third, but couldn’t cash in a run.
The Tigers got a single run in the second, but it wasn’t until the bottom of the fifth inning that the offence really got going. McDonald hit a two-run RBI single, which was followed by a double by McHugh and a two-run single from Danny Mikitka.
McDonald ended up going 4-for-6 in the game, including three singles, a double and three RBIs.
“It felt good to hit a few balls square,” he said. “I’ve struggled a little bit finding my swing, even at practice.”
The only real blemish of the game for McDonald came in the seventh inning. He was tagged out trying to steal second base after his momentum carried him past the bag.
“I made a pretty stupid base-running error at second not sliding and I got tagged out. It’s disappointing because it’s a mental mistake.”
Maguire came into the game in the sixth inning in relief of Dallorto and he performed well for three innings, but the game got away from him in the ninth. The Riggers had 12 batters in the inning combine for 10 hits while the Tigers made two errors.
“They were finding some gaps and plated a few runs,” McDonald said. “All you can ask is to carry the lead into the last inning. We did that, but that’s the game.”
McDonald, 22, was planning on playing for the junior St. Albert Tabbies for the third year but hooked up with the senior Tigers when the Tabbies couldn’t field a team because of a lack of players. The St. Albert product plans on doing some extra stretching heading into the weekend after tearing his hamstring at the tournament in 2008 and 2009.
The 27th annual tournament starts Friday at 6 p.m. and wraps up Sunday with the final at 3 p.m.
Joining the Tigers in the Waples division are the Riggers, Prince George Grays and Mayerthorpe Mets. Competing in the Young division are the Red Deer Stags, Parkland White Sox, Calgary Redbirds and Fort Saskatchewan Athletics, last year’s senior AAA Baseball Canada national champions.
In last year’s final the Tigers rallied with five runs in the top of the seventh for a 10-7 win over the Stags.
The next Sunburst game for the Tigers is Thursday against the Stags in Red Deer at 7:30 p.m.