Even with an extra defender on the infield, the Red Deer Riggers found a way.
The game was tied at seven in the eighth inning and Sherwood Park Athletics decided to pull an outfielder in to defend the middle of the diamond.
With one out and Riggers outfielder Brad Goodwin as the winning run on third, Kevin Curran bounced a ball up the middle. The high hopper snuck just past the outstretched glove of outfielder turned infielder Kern Watts, who leaped but couldn’t pull it down.
Curran’s RBI was his fourth hit of the game and gave the Riggers an 8-7 extra-innings victory. The win also moved the Riggers into a tie for first in the Sunburst Baseball League.
“We hadn’t scored from the fourth up until the seventh. It says a lot that we can get down and nobody is panicking. We’re in the ballpark the whole time in terms of score,” said catcher Ty Russell, who three hits and three RBI in the win.
“That’s one thing I’ve noticed about this team, nobody panics when we’re losing. It’s like we’re not even losing. Which is the sign on a pretty confident team.”
Russell was the man who even gave the Riggers a chance to win the game, launching a monster opposite-field home run in the seventh inning off Matt Hammond to tie the game and send it to extra innings.
“I saw everything he had to throw. He actually had me set up for a curveball and that’s what I thought I was going to see. He stuck with the fastball and it was belt high, middle away,” said Russell.
“It was an easy one to hit, I put probably my best swing of the year on it.”
After the Athletics opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the first, Red Deer also responded in a big way. The Riggers scored four in the bottom half on five hits including a leadoff double from Curran. Josh Edwards had an RBI double, and both Russell and Jason Louis had RBI singles.
In the bottom of the third, Red Deer cashed two more runs to go-ahead 6-2.
Trouble struck for Riggers starter Davin Gulbransen in the fourth. He allowed three runs and after two more hits in the fifth, was replaced by Joel Peterman. Gulbransen let up nine hits and all seven runs were charged to the Riggers’ starter.
Peterman did let two runs score on wild pitches in the fifth but was otherwise solid in relief. He struck out three, walked one and gave up two hits.
Red Deer also picked up a 9-0 win Monday in Edmonton against the Cubs.
The Riggers now have two regular-season games remaining, one of which will be played during the annual Riggers Tournament on Saturday night. Monday they’ll finish the regular season with a makeup game against the Edmonton Confederation Cubs.
As for the 39th annual Riggers Tournament, which gets underway Friday night at 7 p.m., Russell is excited for his first experience at the event. Although he wasn’t sure who’ll be the Riggers’ entry in the home run derby, Russell just hopes to get some good at-bats.
“I’m excited get a bunch of AB’s when I’m super hot. When you’re hot, you know you’re hot,” Russell added.
The home run derby is a part of the weekend for the first time and is free for fans to attend. First pitch flies at 7 p.m. Tournament games continue throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, with the final set for 5:30 p.m. Sunday.