Commissioner Riopel presenting Nathan Swap with the engraved bat he took home for being chosen as the game’s MVP.

The Manager of Leon’s Paint & Carpet All-Stars, Brett McElroy, poses with six members of his regular squad who dressed for the 2017 All-Star Game.

Lia Cole, winner of the City of St. Albert Canada 150 singer-songwriter competition belts out her winning entry during the pre-game show

Rhonda Egar-Lee leads the dignitaries off field following the pre-game show.

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NCABL Family Mourns the Loss of Hall of Fame Member

The North Central Alberta Baseball League is mourning the loss of a recently inducted Hall of Fame member. Mr. Al Balen entered the Hall of Fame on Friday, August 18th, 2017, as one of the first inductees from the first decade of play. He was joined by Morinville Manufacturer Larry Perrott, the only other inductee from the 1968 - 1977 decade to have entered the Hall on this night. Balen patrolled the outfield for the Linaria Flyers and was always a tough out at the plate during the glory years of the Flyers.

The League was also saddened to hear of the loss of Sherien Morgan, long time partner of former associate-commissioner Neill O’Shaughnessy. Neill insisted on keeping his promise to assist Commissioner Riopel during the 50th anniversary celebrations despite Sherien’s worsening condition. She too passed away days later. Our condolences and prayers are extended to both families.

League Office has also learned that umpire Steve Bluett has been hospitalized and diagnosed with terminal brain cancer this week. Steve was in good spirits and appreciated receiving a copy of the League’s 50th anniversary commemorative magazine from Commissioner Riopel, a long time friend within the NCABL umpiring fraternity.

The 2017 Championship Series in Review

League Championship Semi-Final Series A: Mets vs. Red Lions

Larger than average crowds gathered at Keller Field to witness some undeniably stunning results as the Red Lions (8 - 8) faced off against the pennant champion Stony Plain Mets (14 - 2) Game 1 of this series was an absolute blow-out as the Mets were unrelentless in their assault on the Red Lions pitching staff, pounding out 18 hits including two home runs from Kyle Radke and Lee Worobec. A barage of 8 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning put the game away as the Mets cruised to an 18 - 0 victory.

The Red Lions regrouped in game 2 behind the effective pitching of Adam Sawatzky who allowed only 3 hits while the reliable bats of a number of Red Lions including Chris Brand and Nathan Brown provided the necessary offence to eek out a 3 - 0 victory to tie the series and send it into a third and deciding game. The game was not without its heated moment when Mets runner Kyle Radke slid hard into second base to the objection of Red Lion shortstop Jordan Brand whose retaliatory knee created a tense moment causing both benches to clear. Although some chirping from both dugouts persisted after that incident, the umpiring crew did a credible job of keeping both clubs under control

The Red Lions came right back with Sawatzky the next day. After having thrown a full seven innings in game 1, Sawatzky worked his way through 51/3 more innings. Although he allowed 11 hits, the Mets could only muster 3 runs for their effort despite the hot bats of Jamie Cameron, Steve Cote, Ryan Lyster, and Colten Thurotte who each registered 2 or more hits. The Red Lions pounded out 4 runs in the first to take a commanding lead and never looked back. Chris Brand provided a 3 RBI home run in the sixth inning to cement the Red Lion lead who went on to defeat the Mets 8 -3 and advance to the Championship final series.

League Championship Semi-Final Series B: Blackhawks vs. Sherwood Park

This series was destined to be an interesting one as the defending league champion Blackhawks (13 -3) faced off against their nemesis, the Athletics (12 -4), who had twice defeated the Blackhawks in regular season play. Game 1 was a tight see-saw contest with the Athletics taking an early 1 -0 lead only to see the Blackhawks steal the lead after 4 innings by a score of 2 - 1. In the 5th, Henry Duke took a Kyle Lawrence offering over the left field fence to tie the game at 2. This game would go an extra inning when, with the bases loaded in the top of the 8th for the Athletics, Cody McElroy was hit by a pitch to bring in the go-ahead run. That run would prove to be the winner as the Athletics closed off the 8th without allowing a run.

Game 2 was all Blackhawks as they struck for 8 runs off of five hits against Brennan Nelson of the Athletics who took the loss. The Blackhawks struck early as lead-off batter Kyle Lawrence walked and eventually scored. The Hawks added another in the 3rd, two in the 6th, and closed the game off with 4 more runs in the top of the seventh for an 8 - 0 victory. Regan Hoet was his usual dominant self for the Blackhawks going the full seven innings while giving up only 2 hits and 2 walks while counting 7 strikeouts.

As was game one of this series, the third and deciding game was a tightly played and hard fought contest pitting two determined clubs. The game was scoreless until the fifth when the Athletics scored 3 runs off starter Matt Kukovica who was replaced by reliever Jamie Gregg who allowed another pair of runs in the seventh. Cody McElroy had a stellar performance on the hill for the Athletics giving up only two hits in a complete game performance. McElroy’s performance was helped along by left fielder Callen Kenyon who made two outstanding back to back catches in left field. With a shutout victory of their own, the Athletics would move on to play the Red Lions in the Championship Final Series.

League Championship Final Series: Sherwood Park vs. Red Lions

The last time the final series pitted the third and fourth place clubs in the championship series was in 2008 when the fourth place Parkland Whitesox defeated the Legal Indians in two straight games, with the second going three extra innings. This series was played at Remax Field, a neutral site for the NCABL’s 50th anniversary season. The Red Lions wasted little time in game one by jumping to an early 1st inning 3 - 0 lead. The Athletics responded with a run of their own in the first. In the fifth, the Red Lions managed to score 3 more runs off starter Callen Kenyon who was then replaced by Mike Desjarlais. The Athletics did not go away as they came storming back to score 3 runs in the bottom of the fifth. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and only one out, Burlett was replaced by reliever Kris Johnson who closed the door for the Red Lions ending the threat. Burlett went 41/3 innings, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs (3 earned) while registering 5 strikeouts and hitting 2 batters. Callen Kenyon took the loss going five innings for the Athletics allowing 6 earned runs on 4 hits, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts and hitting 6 batters. The final score: Westlock Red Lions 6 Sherwood Park Athletics 4.

The Red Lions were looking to close the series in two straight games when they managed to score the lead run in the second inning, but Sherwood Park would have nothing to do with it as they stormed back with 5 runs against Red Lion starter Adam Sawatzky to take a big 5 - 1 lead in the fourth inning. The tempo of this crucial game rose even higher when, in the bottom of the fourth, the Red Lions stormed back to score 5 runs of their own and regain the lead by a slim margin of 6 -5. Back came the Athletics in the sixth to score 2 runs and push the Red Lions to the bottom of the seventh while holding a 7 - 6 lead over the series leader. The drama was at a high pitch when Ryan Teske got onboard courtesy of a hit by pitch. He would later score the tying run on a wild pitch. With the score tied at 7 and with two out and a runner in scoring position, Chris Brand provided a clutch single to left field driving in the winning run and series winner. Mike Desjarlais took the loss in relief of Brennan Nelson while Kris Johnson took the win in relief of Adam Sawatzky. Final score: Red Lions 8 Sherwood Park 7.

Chris Brand, who was absolutely outstanding both defensively and on the stick for the Red Lions all through the Series was named the Most Valuable Player of the Championship Series. With the win, the Red Lions were crowned league champions in the 50th anniversary year. This championship victory marked the 18th time that the Red Lions have taken home the coveted cup.

The above review was a collaborative effort between Earl Thompson and Paul Riopel
Official Release from the Office of the North Central Alberta Baseball League

Annual Awards Presented at Gala Banquet

The 2017 annual awards were given a higher profile this season as they were all presented during the League’s 50th Anniversary Gala Banquet held in Westlock on August 19th. The MVP of the League Championship Series was presented one week later at Remax Field following the Red Lion victory over the Sherwood Park Athletics in straight games. For the complete award summary go to the Commissioner’s Corner or click here for quick access.

Red Lions Advance to Post Season

In front of a large vocal crowd in Westlock ,the Westlock RedLions and St Albert Cardinals met in a winner take all game for the chance to go on to the League Championship Semi-Final Series.

This was a tight affair, but the RedLions came out on top by a score of 4-1.

Adam Sawatzky was very efficient on the mound for the RedLions, going 5 strong innings while giving up only 5 hits wit 2 walks and 1 strikeout.

The RedLions took control in the second inning, when with two runners aboard, Austin Watamaniuk took Cards starter Brandon Badry over the right field fence for a 3 run home run.

The RedLions added a fourth run in the third inning and never looked back.

Cards starter Brendon Badry pitched well, going 4 innings, with 4 hits and 4 runs, while walking 2 and striking out 2.

Base running mistakes cost St Albert in this one, as a rally in the 4th was snuffed out when the Red Lions CF caught a fly ball and then threw out a runner at second who had strayed too far from his base.

The Cards mounted a comeback in the top of the seventh but could only score once.

The Cardinals have nothing to be ashamed of as they are a young ball club and will definitely learn from this experience.

The Red Lions will play the first place Stony Plain Mets in Series A of the LCSFS while the Emonton Blackhawks will meet the Sherwood Park Athletics in Series B.

Story contributed by Earl Thompson

Tune in on Monday Evenings or Anytime for Earl Thompson’s Weekly Show

As audio-visual director for the NCABL, Earl Thompson provides weekly analysis, conducts interviews, and gives broad coverage of the North Central Alberta Baseball League through his program. Tune in to hear the latest on “Circling the Bases” by clicking here.

Parade marshall Celine McElroy on Cisco leads the grand entrance. To her right, Associate Commissioner Ed Ewasiuk while to her left, Darrell Dingwall and Shelly Lake representing our sponsors, the Beverly Optimist Club of Edmonton.

Commissioner Riopel is seen thanking 50th anniversary Director Ed Ewasiuk for his countless hours spent on the All-Star Event. Also mentioned was Kurtus Millar, SAMBA President, who lent the League his enthusiastic support.

“Mourning Wood” delighted the crowd with two dynamic sets during the tail gate rock concert which preceded the All-Star Game.

NCABL Hall of Fame Opens in Morinville

The first sport specific Hall of Fame to be opened in Alberta by an amateur league was dedicated during an official ceremony in Morinville on the evening of April 6th. Housed in the Morinville Historical Museum, the Hall of Fame will henceforth become the permanent home for the NCABL’s major annual awards. Also to be housed in this location will be the League’s extensive archival collection including administrative manuals, comprehensive statistical data on teams and players, press books, and artifacts of historical note.

Beautiful oak cabinets with soft interior lighting provide a rich backdrop for the League’s major awards.

The event was attended by mayors, deputy mayors, and councillors from numerous municipal jurisdictions. Joining them were representatives from the NCABL Board of Governors, Directors from the NCABL 50th Anniversary Executive Committee, members from the Morinville Historical Society, and other special guests. Covering the event were numerous media sources from the region. Murray Knight welcomed those gathered on behalf of the Morinville Historical Society before introducing Commissioner Paul Riopel who spoke warmly of the partnership between the League and the Historical Society. Mr. Riopel then turned his attention to depicting baseball as a significant contributor to the development and fabric of early pioneer life before morphing into the highly skilled game we have grown to know today.

Commissioner Riopel delivers the welcoming address before forty dignitaries to open the NCABL Hall of Fame.

The ribbon cutting ceremony was presided over by Deputy-Mayor Nicole Boutestein from Morinville, City Mayor Nolan Crouse from St. Albert, and Councillor Curtis Snell from Westlock. The three aforementioned communities were all designated as host sites for the NCABL’s six 50th anniversary events running from April through August of this year in conjunction with Canada’s 150th birthday.

( From left to right) Councillor Curtis Snell, Deputy-Mayor Nicole Boutestein, and Mayor Nolan Crouse are focused on during the official ribbon cutting ceremony which opened the NCABL Hall of Fame.

Club stats released August 10, 2017
LCS Club stats released August 28, 2017
Camrose Axemen St. Albert Cardinals
Edmonton Athletics Sherwood Park Athletics
Edmonton Blackhawks Stony Plain Mets
Edmonton Primeaus Sturgeon Paladins
Westlock Red Lions