Northern Lights right-hander Matthew Dechant in Norwest League baseball action at Carl Linden Field on Sunday, June 9, 2019. The Lights will head to Sherwood Park this weekend to participate in the Tier I AAA Midget baseball tournament. The team got into the tournament after winning the Tier II title last weekend in Fort McMurray.
Gordon Anderson / Daily Herald Tribune
Courtesy of the gold-medal win at the Alberta provincial Tier II baseball tournament in Fort McMurray last weekend, the Northern Lights get another shot at Tier I as the club will head to Sherwood Park to compete in the Tier I provincial tournament this weekend.In the first half of the regular season, the Lights were relegated from Tier I due to an uneven first half, where they finished in the bottom six before the league split. This weekend the club will play teams they’ve already competed against this season.Nothing new from that perspective but what is different is the Lights themselves.It seems the players are in the proper spots on the diamond, positions that maximize natural talent. They’re executing the plays that need to be made and that’s crucial because it’s difficult getting 21 outs, never mind allowing the opponent more chances than they deserve when the ball gets booted around and execution isn’t where it should be.That’s where the club has picked it up in the since late June through the month of July.“Our defence has been pretty locked down,” Lights centre fielder Alex Martin said. “We haven’t made too many errors and the bats have gotten hot.”“We’re going to stay on the same page we’ve been working off, keep the train rolling,” Lights Manager Cashtyn DeLeeuw added. “We’ve been playing good and we can’t worry too much about what the other teams are doing. We’re going to focus on the job and just compete like the way we have been and see what the outcome is. We’ll take it as a new challenge. (We have) full belief in the squad. If we put them in the right situations, we’re going to compete, for sure.”Right to competeThe Lights picked a provincial baseball title following a successful 4-0 run at the Alberta Tier II baseball tournament in Fort McMurray last weekend.The Lights picked up a 9-1 win over the Okotoks Dawgs to start off the four-game schedule and followed up with a 6-2 victory against the Calgary Dinos. The Lights then earned a 9-1 win over the host Fort McMurray Oil Giants in the semi final. The club finished off the undefeated run with a 3-2 victory over the Edmonton Padres in the closing game on Sunday.DeLeeuw saw the club he’s been patiently waiting for all season, a team that has the whole ball of wax from a baseball perspective. The former Murray State Racers right-hander saw his club deliver at the right time.“The defence was stellar, pitching was stellar the catching was stellar and (we got) timely hits when we needed them,” DeLeeuw said after practice on Tuesday night at Carl Linden Field. “They played amazing and deserved the outcome they got.”“We played unreal the whole weekend,” Martin added. “We were the best team there, playing the best of anyone. We got hot at the right time.”Prior to the tournament, Lights pitcher Matthew La France commented the club was going to the oil city in north east Alberta with one goal in mind, nothing else was good enough. The lanky righty was earnest in his assessment of the club heading into the now completed tournament. Turns out he was correct in his assessment of his club.“We went in and we had the goal of winning the tournament and we weren’t going to settle for anything less,” La France said.In pitching we trustThe Lights received a quartet of great starts from the pitching staff in Fort McMurray. In the four games, the club received a seven-inning complete game, two performances of six and two thirds innings—where a pitch count limit in midget baseball forced the managers hand—and one another game where three arms combined to get the job done.“(The pitchers) handled themselves very well,” DeLeeuw said. “It wasn’t easy for them. Each guy attacked the hitters and let the defence work for them. The catchers blocked everything, doing what they needed to do behind the dish. The pitchers were able to control themselves and their bodies in pressure situations. It all came together at the right time. The pitching staff is definitely the backbone of the team.”Six runs allowed in four games. Not too shabby.“We probably had the deepest pitching in the tournament, if not the (entire) league,” La France said. “We have four or five starters and good relief (pitching) that can come in and finish games. That mattered in the end—especially in the semi and the final—(as) the teams we played ran out of pitching and we were hitting weaker pitchers when we still had our top guys.”“I believe we have the best rotation in the (Tier II) league and, probably, top three in the Tier I,” Martin added. “We’ve always had great pitching with the Lights.”