Slave Lake’s Bantam ‘AA’ Heat had a good run at the Tier I provincial baseball championships in Strathmore on the August long weekend. They fell one game short of the championship, losing to Provost in the final. Along the way there were a lot of good moments – even great ones, according to various bleacher reports received by The Leader.
Most of the Heat’s games were actually played in the tiny hamlet of Cheadle – a place so small nobody had ever heard of it until a few local guys with some money and a dream built a first-class ball park there.
The Heat were in a round robin pool with host Strathmore Reds, St. Albert Cardinals and Fort Saskatchewan Red Sox. Game 1 on the Friday against Strathmore was not the start they hoped for, although the game opened, with the Heat taking a 5 – 0 lead. But the Reds poured it on and won 13 – 5.
“We didn’t hit well enough to win,” says head coach Dave LaFrance.
Hunter Mouallem pitched four innings for the Heat, with Uneeb Khan, Matt LaFrance and pickup Jason Frank in relief. A batting highlight was Will Chemago’s home run,
Having lost the first game, “we had to go for it,” against St. Albert in Game 2, says LaFrance.
“With a three-game round robin we couldn’t go down two games.”
The answer was to start Matt LaFrance on the mound against Ft. Saskatchewan. He did well, tossing a one-hitter through six innings. Chemago closed it out and the Heat had their first victory, 6 – 0. Kyle Campbell’s two hits in three at bats helped.
That set up the must-win third game against Ft. Sask, if the Heat were to advance to the semis. Chemago pitched well, and “our hitting started to warm up,” LaFrance says. Ethan Wedmid closed it out. “We played solid defence as well,” LaFrance says.
Parker Hay, Tayyab Khadim, Carson Masur and Mouallem had good at bats in the 10 – 0 win.
Finishing second in their pool meant crossing over for a Sunday morning semi-final meeting with the mighty Camrose Cougars, who had ‘mercied’ Slave Lake in two regular season meetings.
“We scored early and often,” says LaFrance. “Our bats were hot and our aggressive base running was working. They switched pitchers and it did not make a difference. We kept on scoring; we were up 15-3 at one point of the game. Uneeb Khan (starting pitcher) was great.”
The Cougars mounted a late rally, scoring five in the seventh to make it a 15 – 10 game, but that’s as close as it got. Ethan Wedmid shut them down the rest of the way.
“This really felt like our championship game,” says assistant coach Kevin Campbell.
It turned out the Heat didn’t have one more win in them. They ran into some very hot pitching (to say nothing of the hitting) from the Provost Pilots in the championship game, and lost 15 – 1. Not the way they wanted it to end, but second place out of 40 teams in the top tier of ‘AA’ Bantam baseball in the province is not bad at all.
“(We’re) very happy with the effort the boys put in all year,” says LaFrance. Adds Campbell: “They really exceeded expectations this weekend and throughout the season.”
Top Row, left to right: Coach Kevin Campbell, Ethan Wedmid, Jason Frank, Kyle Campbell, Parker Hay, Matthew LaFrance, Coach Dave LaFrance, William Chemago
Kneeling: Aiden Blocka, Hunter Mouallem, Tayyab Khadim, Uneeb Khan, Carson Masur.
Photo courtesy Richard Chemago