Slave Lake’s U13 Heat baseball team capped off a good season by winning two and losing two at the Tier II provincial championship tournament in Sherwood Park on the long weekend.
It was the usual scenario – two pools of four teams, with the top two advancing to the semis after round-robin play. The Heat started things off against the Lacombe Dodgers.
“Lacombe was one of the teams that beat us during our last weekend of league play,” says head coach Kevin Campbell. “Zach Hartman got the start on the mound and went close to four innings.”
The Heat were down 8 – 2 after those first four innings, but started clawing their way back into it. They trailed 9 – 6 going into the bottom of the seventh inning (games are seven innings).
“That’s when we mounted our comeback,” Campbell says, “taking advantage of some Lacombe errors, scoring four runs in our last at bats for the very exciting walk-off win.”
Lucas Diaz drove in the final two runs for the victory.
Campbell says relief pitchers Grayson Conrad and Colby Campbell shut the Dodger offence down. Luke Lukan-Kubel had a good game, scoring three of the 10 Slave Lake runs.
Game 2 saw the Heat square off against the Red Deer Braves. The tables were turned in this one, with Slave Lake taking the early lead.
Then they let it slip away. The final score was 12 – 10 for Red Deer.
“Really tough game for us,” Campbell says. “We went up 6-0 in the first inning, but committed nine errors, which led to the Braves’ win.”
Diaz pitched “a heck of a game for us. Connor McDermott, Owen Griffith and Colby Campbell pitched an inning in the Heat loss. Carter Donaldson made two terrific catches in right field as well to keep the game close.”
In the third game, the Heat beat the host Sherwood Park Athletics 11 – 7.
“This was a do or die game for us,” Campbell says. “Lose and we go home; win and we have a three-way tie in Pool B at 2-1.”
Grayson Conrad got the nod as starting pitcher and did well, but ran out of pitches in the fifth inning. Wanting to save Colby Campbell for the tie-breaker, Campbell says he “tapped Connor McDermott on the shoulder to finish off the undefeated Athletics.” And that’s just what he did, striking out five of the nine batters he faced.
“He struck out the last batter of the game and it was like we were playing in front of a home crowd!” Campbell says. “It was so loud. Nathan Ghostkeeper and Owen Griffith were really strong defensively in this game as well.”
That set up a Sunday morning tie-breaker game between the Heat and Red Deer, Sherwood Park having got the bye due to the better runs for/against ratio.
The Heat found themselves down by three runs going into the bottom of the seventh inning. In their last at bat, Slave Lake loaded the bases and scored two runs with one out to make it 6-5.
“Then Mr. Clutch (Connor McDermott) comes up again and hits a double down third base to score Lucas Diaz to tie the game 6-6.”
The Braves scored one run in their half of the first extra inning, and that’s when the rain started coming down, leading to a two-hour delay.
“We played the bottom of the eighth after the delay but couldn’t score to tie or win,” Campbell says. “The rain delay really hurt our momentum; no doubt we win that game if we had kept playing.”
Colby Campbell pitched well for the Heat going into the seventh inning before running out of pitches. Payton Tompkins came in to finish off in relief.
Connor Beauchamp had a hot bat all weekend going 2-4 in this game, scoring two runs.
“So yes, a very, very exciting provincials for this group, again,” says Campbell. “They had a terrific season! So proud of them. Coaches want to thank the players and parents for their dedication and commitment.”