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Red Lions roll over Twins in NCABL semifinal

Club puts up 20 runs in the final two games to win the best-of-three series; Red Lions and St. Albert Cardinals will now battle for the league crown

WESTLOCK – In their golden-anniversary season, the Westlock Red Lions put on a dominant hitting display to win the final two games of their North Central Alberta Baseball League (NCABL) semifinal series versus the Parkland Twins and now have their sights set on a 19th league crown.

Westlock’s Keller Field played host to the NCABL’s two semifinal series Aug. 12-13 that saw the Red Lions, who finished the year at 11-9, rebound from a 2-1 loss in Game 1 of their series versus the 12-8 Twins Saturday with 12-1 and 8-1 victories on Sunday afternoon — Game 3 was only 3-1 heading into the top of the seventh before the Red Lions tacked on five more to put the game out of reach. In the other semifinal, the pennant-winning St. Albert Cardinals, who went 15-5 in the regular season, downed the 7-13 Barrhead Orioles two straight to punch their ticket to the final.

While Red Lions player/manager Chris Brand agreed that their “bats were on fire” in the final two games, he paid special tribute to pitcher Corson Hanlan who was the story of the weekend. Hanlan took to the mound in all three games and logged 16 innings, while posting a 1-1 record and only gave up a single earned run.

“We delivered the hits when we needed to, but Corson Hanlan was just lights out and unreal. I haven’t seen anything like it before. He was a stud,” said Brand moments after they clinched the series. “Today it took us a little while to get going as we had the bases loaded a few times and didn’t score. But that’s Red Lions baseball, we don’t give up, we just keep going.”

Brand said the victory was especially sweet as the Twins, who are heading to the Western Canadian Championships this upcoming weekend, were the reigning league champs and swept them in last year’s final by scores of 6-5 and 2-0.

“After last year’s loss in the final, which I thought we could have won, it’s definitely nice to beat them,” said Brand. “They’re a very confident bunch and when you can put them in their place, it’s a good feeling.”

Looking forward to the NCABL championship, Brand said they match up well against the Cardinals as they went 3-2 versus them in the regular season. Game 1 goes Friday, Aug. 25, in St. Albert, with Game 2 at Keller Field on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m., while Game 3, if needed, is set for Sunday, Aug. 27 back in St. Albert. This is the fourth-straight trip to the NCABL final for the Red Lions, whose last title came in 2017.

“The Cardinals are a good team for sure and they’ve got a bunch of good veterans. But to be honest, I think we’ve got the best pitching in the league and as long as our bats stay hot, we’ll be OK,” said Brand.

He also said they’re looking forward to the almost two-week break to nurse some nagging injuries, as well as the alumni game slated for next Saturday, Aug. 19, during the fair to celebrate the club’s 50 years in existence.

“Two weeks off is good for everyone. We’ll get refreshed and then refocus on hopefully being able to deliver a championship in our 50th year,” said Brand, who was hobbling on a bad calf by game’s end. “And we’re for sure looking forward to the alumni game next weekend at the fair as well. There’s so much history with the Red Lions, so it’s great to be able to get together and tell some stories and have a few laughs.”

George Blais,

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