WESTLOCK - With only a handful of games left in their 2022 North Central Alberta Baseball League season, the Westlock Red Lions have secured a playoff berth but appear destined to finish in second in the five-team league.
This past week the club routed the Fort Saskatchewan Reds 17-4 July 19 in Fort Saskatchewan, then dropped a 4-1 decision to the Parkland Twins July 21 at Keller Field followed by an 18-3 victory over the St. Albert Cardinals July 25 and now sit with an 11-5 record with four games left to be played. The Twins, who are in the midst of a 10-game winning streak, sport a 15-3 record and would need to drop their final two games to give the Red Lions any chance of forcing a tie atop the standings.
Red Lions player/manager Chris Brand said they had their chances against the Twins but couldn’t cash in — Brand went one-for-three at the plate and had the lone RBI for Red Lions, while starting pitcher Corson Hanlan went five innings and gave up six hits along with three earned runs in the loss. Brand gave credit to the Twins calling them a “talented bunch” and knows they’ll probably end up facing them in the league championship in August.
“The last three innings we had chances to score, but we left the bases loaded a few times. They’re a good team and a talented bunch. We made some base-running mistakes against them that didn’t help and our defence wasn’t where it needed to be to beat a team like them,” said Brand.
In their 17-4 win over the Reds, Brand went two-for-four at the plate with four RBIs, while Nathan Brown was four-for-four and had three RBIs and pitcher Kyle Lawrence went the full seven innings and struck out 13 in the win.
“We went through the order in the first inning … I think we went through the order a few times that night. We really put the pressure on them and they couldn’t handle it. Whenever we had people on base we were able to score,” Brand added.
This coming week the Red Lions will be on the road for three straight to face the Barrhead Orioles, July 27 and Reds, July 28. The following week the Orioles will be in town for an Aug. 2 tilt, then the Red Lions will finish their season on the road when they face the Twins Aug. 5.
If the Red Lions finish in second they’ll face one of the Reds (6-10), Cardinals (5-11) or Orioles (4-11) with Game 1 in that best-of-three series slated for Aug. 19 on the road. The Red Lions will then host the second and third games Aug. 21, which coincide with the annual ag fair.
“First and second are pretty much decided, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens at the bottom as it’s really tight. For us, it doesn’t matter who we play in the first round of the playoffs,” said Brand.
All-star game fireworks
Earlier in the week, Sunday, July 17, the NCABL All-Star Game was played at REMAX Field in Edmonton, a 5-4 win for Team ‘B’ made up of nine Red Lions and six Orioles — Team ‘A’ was composed of players from the Reds, Cardinals and Twins.
Brand, who played in the game alongside Brown and teammate Hayden Chies who had been voted onto the squad, said they had a 5-0 lead heading into the seventh inning when Team ‘A’ rallied.
“They made it close and loaded the bases. We actually had to make a play at the plate to beat them. It was an entertaining game and it’s a fun atmosphere down at REMAX Field as it’s one of the nicest baseball fields in all of Alberta,” said Brand.