WESTLOCK - For a second-straight year the Westlock Red Lions have been caged by the Sherwood Park A’s in the North Central Alberta Baseball League Championship.
The A’s played near-perfect ball at Centennial Park Diamond No. 9 in Sherwood Park Aug. 28, rolling to 7-1 and 17-4 wins over the Red Lions to capture their second-consecutive league title. In addition, the 11-1 A’s also received the regular-season pennant trophy Saturday afternoon from league commissioner Paul Riopel.
Red Lions player/manager Chris Brand said their margin for error versus the A’s in the final was razor-thin and when the miscues started adding up, so did the runs against — conversely, the A’s went both games without posting an error. The Athletics have now won their last six games against the Red Lions going back to the 2020 NCABL championship final.
“In the first game we didn’t necessarily beat ourselves, but did have a few untimely errors that they cashed runs on,” said Brand the morning after the sweep. “And then we just didn’t hit the ball when we needed to. The second game, it just got away from us in the fourth inning.”
Early runs against also hurt the hometown boys, who were down 2-0 in both games after the first inning — the Red Lions are a resilient bunch, but falling behind to a club like the A’s is a recipe for disaster.
“When you’re constantly playing from behind it takes way more effort and there’s more pressure, especially against a team like the A’s,” Brand said.
And although the season didn’t end with the franchise’s 19th NCABL title there were plenty of positives. The Red Lions had the second-best regular season record at 8-3-1, then swept the Edmonton Athletics in the league semifinal series played Aug. 20 and 22.
Brand also said they were able to get a bunch of rookies valuable experience over the season which should pay dividends in 2022.
“It was a bit of a building year with some new bodies - we had a few rookies in the line-up for the finals. We have a good group. We just need a couple of extra building pieces for next year,” said Brand, who’ll be back next year along with the majority of the club.
“At the end of the day it was nice to be able to play a half-normal season with COVID kind of gone. Summer baseball is what I’m used to so it was nice being able to hang out with buddies at the ballpark.”
Backs against the wall
Meanwhile the Westlock Grey Lions needed a win last night, Aug. 30, to keep their hopes alive for an Alberta West Central Baseball Association championship.
The Grey Lions suffered a 9-1 defeat at the hands of the Sturgeon Paladins in Game 1 of the league championship final held Aug. 27 in Edmonton - Game 2 was slated for Monday night.
The club, who finished the regular season in second place in the AWCBA with an 8-5 record, swept the St. Albert Cardinals in the league semifinal series, while the Paladins needed three games to get past the Edmonton Heat.