Slave Lake’s Junior baseball team is king of the hill provincially, after defying the odds, playing great baseball and winning the Junior provincial championship in Edmonton on the August long weekend. Made up about two thirds of local players with a few key contributors from other towns in the region, the Heat vaulted from a respectable (but distant) second-place showing in the regular season into the gold medal spot.
Here’s how it happened:
The Heat finished the round robin portion of the tournament at three wins and one loss, tied with the Innisfail Merchants at the top of the table. Their one loss, as it happened, was a “very sour” experience, at the hands of the Merchants. Oddly enough, the top-seeded South Jasper Place Jays had failed to advance. The Jays had led the league in wins and runs scored, as well as allowing the fewest runs. But they stumbled out of the gate, whereas the Heat charged out, winning three straight. More on that later.
Three hours after losing 12 – 2 (in five innings) to Innisfail, the Heat had to face them again in the final on Aug. 7.
“So here we go,” says head coach Cody Stasow. “Gold medal game, us vs. Innisfail, (them) probably thinking it was going to be a cakewalk after crushing us the game before.”
Think again: “We surprised them by starting the game off with Daniel Masur scoring Brayden Stasow to take an early 1-0 lead. After (Austin) Kuhn led off the second inning with a double, (Lee) Worobec singled in Kuhn with the Stasow brothers following suit collecting a couple of RBI each to make the game 4-0.”
After Innisfail made a pitching change, it seemed to turn the tide, as Innisfail scored three runs in the fourth to make it 4-3. Then after Kuhn loaded the bases in the same inning, (Randall) Weber came in off the bench to take over on the mound to strike out the next batter to keep the score close. With the Heat scoring one in the fifth, Innisfail never slowed down, getting to Weber with three more runs in bottom of the fifth to take the lead 6-5.
“But we seem to always find a way to come back and that was the case again. Kuhn started off the sixth with another double, and after Dalton Masur and Worobec loaded the bases, Weber and (Nick) Mulich came in clutch to score a couple more runs to take over the lead 8-6. After Weber settled down on the mound, we were able to score a couple more runs in the seventh to widen the lead 10-6 and Weber finished the game by striking out the side in the bottom of the seventh to win the provincial championship!”
Setting up that dramatic finish were round robin wins over the St. Albert Cardinals, South Jasper Place Jays and Fort Saskatchewan Red Sox.
In the first game, Weber pitched a complete game for the 5 – 4 comeback victory over St. Albert. Daniel Masur drove in Cole Stasow for the winning run.
Against Fort Saskatchewan in the second game, the Slave Lake bats were lively early on and the Heat built up a 6 – 2 lead. The Red Sox clawed back to get within one, but Heat pitcher Lee Worobec “completely shut them down in the last two innings to win the game 6-5 and give the Heat a 2-0 record,” says Stasow.
Up against the top seed and defending champion SJP Jays, the Heat were trying to avenge a one-run heartbreaking loss in last year’s final. Cole Cooper was on the mound, and pitched a complete game for a 9 – 3 victory.
“The Heat really broke out in the fourth inning, piling on five more runs to make the game 7-1,” says Stasow. “Kuhn, Dalton Masur, Pollard, Weber, C. Stasow and Nick Mulich did most of the damage that inning by collecting extra base hits.”
Having booked their ticket to the final with the 3 – 0 record, perhaps the Heat were not as primed for Innisfail as they should have been. But they pulled up their socks and got back at it hard in the final, as noted above.
The team qualified for the Western Canadian championships in Brandon Manitoba this past week. Making the trip is a combined Slave Lake/St. Albert squad, due to so many of the Heat not being available. Six members of the team were able to participate – Brayden Stasow, Cole Stasow, Ian Pollard, Dalton Masur, Daniel Masur, and Lee Worobec. Six others will be from the St. Albert Cardinals.
The Slave Lake Junior Heat. Back Row (Left to Right): Lee Worobec, Trevor Vance (Coach), Ian Pollard, Brandon Hermanson, Eugene Mulich (Coach), Nick Mulich, Randall Weber, Cody Stasow (Coach)
Front Row (Left to Right): Luke Macaulay, Cole Cooper, Austin Kuhn, Brayden Stasow, Dalton Masur, Justin Kwasny, Daniel Masur, Cole Stasow