WESTLOCK - Westlock’s senior baseball teams, the Red and Grey Lions, are on track to finish at or near the top of their respective leagues and are now turning their attention to tuning up for the playoffs which are just around the corner.
Heading into the final week of regular-season play in the North Central Alberta Baseball League, the Red Lions sit at 13-5, good enough for second place just behind the Parkland Twins who stand with a 16-3 mark. The Red Lions were dominant on the diamond again last week scoring 45 runs while only allowing 11 in road wins over the St. Albert Cardinals, 18-3 July 25, the Barrhead Orioles, 15-4 July 27 and the Fort Saskatchewan Reds, 12-4 July 28.
Player/manager Chris Brand said they’ll treat their final two games as tune-ups and he’s committed to using as many arms on the mound as possible. The Red Lions will host the Orioles at Keller Field Aug. 2 at 7 p.m., then end the regular season Aug. 5 on the road versus the Twins, who are in the midst of an 11-game winning streak.
“Our bats have been on fire lately. And we had a lot of younger guys playing this week too, so it’s nice to see everyone getting on a roll as we’re heading into playoff time. The biggest thing for us is to keep the offence going because our pitching has been great all year,” said Brand July 30.
As for the playoffs, it appears almost certain that the Red Lions will be facing the Reds, who are currently in third with a 7-11 record — Game 1 in that best-of-three series is slated for Aug. 19 in Fort Saskatchewan then the Red Lions will then host the second and third games Aug. 21, which coincide with the annual ag fair. In the other series the Twins will face either the Cardinals, who sit at 5-12, or the Orioles, who have a 4-12 record.
“This week we’re going to try and use all of our arms just so they’re ready for the playoffs because after Friday (Aug. 5) we have 10 days off before the playoffs start,” said Brand.
Grey Lions on a tear
Meanwhile the senior Red Lions, known locally as the Grey Lions, have a 12-3 record and are the class of the Alberta West Central Baseball Association, a 10-team league for players ages 30-plus.
The Grey Lions 10-game winning streak came to an end July 25 in a 6-1 loss to the Sherwood Park Pirates, while their final regular season games are scheduled for Aug. 5 and Aug. 7 versus the Grey Jays and Heat in Edmonton.
“We’re rolling. We’ve been hitting well as a group and playing good defence, but we added a few more pitchers this year which has really helped to share the load,” said player/manager Sheldon McConaghy before their 10-game winning streak came to an end. “We just want to stay healthy and keep rolling. If we continue to play good defence and the bats stay hot we have a good chance of going far in the playoffs.”
McConaghy said they’re hoping to start the playoffs the week of Aug. 15 and it’ll be a home-and-home series that will pit one versus four in the standings and two versus three — the winners of those two series will then move on to play for the league title. In 2021 the Grey Lions finished second in the league with an 8-5 record before falling in the league championship final 2-0 to the Paladins.