WESTLOCK – The Westlock Red Lions not only snapped their two-game losing streak, but have all-but locked up a North Central Alberta Baseball League playoff berth following an 8-3 drubbing of the Parkland Twins.
The July 21 home win at Keller Field improved the club to 6-2-1 and tightened their stranglehold on second place in the NCABL. The Sherwood Park Athletics, who have three games in hand, sit atop the league with a 5-1 record, while the Edmonton Athletics are in third at 5-3. The Fort Saskatchewan Reds round out the Top 4 — the cutline for the playoffs — with a 4-3-1 mark, while the Twins are just behind at 3-4.
“I would say that we basically have a playoff spot locked in,” said player/manager Chris Brand the day following their victory. “Now it’s just a matter of locking down home field advantage for the playoffs and then we’ll go from there.”
In the Thursday-night tilt, the Twins jumped out to an early 1-0 lead and were poised to go up 2-0 before the Red Lions were able to record the final out at the third base before another Twin touched home plate. By the fourth inning the Red Lions were up 4-1 and had the pedal firmly planted on the floor.
“We scored seven runs from the fourth to the sixth inning. It was mainly walks and timely hits,” said Brand. “This game was one of our best defensive games in recent weeks.”
The Red Lions will now look to sweep the Twins at a July 30 rematch in Spruce Grove, then they’ll face their longest break of the year before meeting the St. Albert Cardinals Aug. 9. The following night, Aug. 10, they’ll finish the regular season at Keller Field against the Cardinals and hopefully move on to play in the league semifinal series.
“Now it’s just a matter of staying sharp over the next few weeks with these big layoffs. We’ll get some practices in and sharpen up on defence and go from there,” said Brand. “This is season has gone by in a blink of an eye. With the shortened schedule it’s really made every game count, so our early hot start to the season has really helped us.”