WESTLOCK - The Westlock Grey Lions will have to wait until 2023 to exact revenge on the Sturgeon Paladins who claimed their second-straight Alberta West Central Baseball Association title with a convincing 9-2 win in the third-and-deciding game of the league championship series.
Played Wednesday, Aug. 31, at Legion Memorial Ball Park in St. Albert, the Paladins were able to build an early lead that the Grey Lions simply couldn’t overcome — skipper Sheldon McConaghy said they managed to load the bases a few times but couldn’t capitalize.
The Paladins scored an 8-4 victory in Game 1 of the series played Aug. 28 in Westlock at Keller Field, while the Grey Lions responded with a gutsy 8-6 win only 24 hours later at Wally Footz Field in Edmonton. This is the third-straight season the Paladins have ended the Grey Lions season, dropping them in the 2021 final and 2019 semifinal — the league, which features players ages 30-plus, took 2020 off due to COVID-19.
“They got a few runs in each of the early innings. They didn’t score again after the fourth but we just couldn’t get any timely hits and push any runs in,” said McConaghy. “Our bats were really strong coming into the playoffs and then they just cooled off at the wrong time.”
McConaghy said it was a tough way to end what was in many respects a banner season for the club. After starting the campaign at 2-2, the Grey Lions rattled off 10-straight wins to finish atop the 10-team league and finished the year at 17-5, while the Paladins ended up with an overall record of 16-6. In the league semifinal series, the Grey Lions were able to get past the St. Albert Cardinals in three games, scoring a 12-2, five-inning victory in the clincher played Aug. 23 at Keller Field.
“It was a successful year even though it didn’t end the way we wanted. We did a lot of good things on the field and had a lot of fun along the way,” said McGonaghy. “We’ll get on them (the Paladins) next year and hopefully take the championship.”
Looking forward to next year, McConaghy, who’ll be back as skipper, expects much of the roster to return and already has a few confirmed additions. Win or lose, the Grey Lions are a tight-knit bunch and play for the love of the game and the camaraderie that comes with it, not the glory.
“For sure we’re all still competitive and want to win, but really for us it’s about having fun. Being able to sit down after a game and enjoy a beer with each other is a big part of it, too,” he said.