ST. PAUL - It was another busy weekend of baseball in St. Paul, as teams in the 11U A Tier 1, 13U A Tier 1, and 15U A Tier 3 categories spent a warm few days under the sun playing for provincial gold.
In the oldest age category, the 15U St. Paul Storm came into the weekend ready to play, winning their first game Friday evening against the Grande Prairie Reds 14-12, followed by a Saturday morning win against the Parkland Twins with a score of 15-4 and a battle against SWEMBA White Sox that also ended in favour of the Storm with a score of 27-17.
"Everyone played extremely well. We had strong performances from our pitchers where they got the strikeouts when we needed them most," said head coach Greg Laramee. "Our bats were anything but silent all weekend. We had clutch hits that drove in valuable runs and six home runs over four games."
When it came to the final game that saw St. Paul meet up once more with the Parkland Twins, spectators in the bleachers at the Jaycee Ball Park had a full afternoon of excitement. With the score sitting at 12-11 heading into the seventh inning, the Twins were able to get a run, tie the game, and force extra innings.
The teams battled back and forth over the course of four more innings, and in the 11th, Parkland would take the win by one run.
"The final game was extremely exciting and hard fought for both teams," said Laramee. St. Paul would come away with silver, while Parkland would take gold.
Over on Diamond 4, the 11U A St. Paul Storm would also find themselves in the gold medal game on Sunday. And after another hard fought battle, the hosts would take home provincial silver.
"The 11U team had an amazing provincial championships weekend," according to coach Chad Kully. "Everything really came together for the kids as they played their best baseball of the year."
Playing at home seemed to offer an advantage to the young baseball players, "and it was great to see hear the cheers of the crowd with every great play or hit."
The 11U team won both their round robin games, then came up against SWEMBA (South West Edmonton Minor Baseball Association) for the semi-finals. SWEMBA had a great pitcher on the mound, but St. Paul had some great pitching of their own and didn't give up. Down 4-3 in the last inning, the kids battled hard to tie the game and then were able to score the winning running after a passed ball, explained Kully.
"I can't describe how much joy was on the kids' faces after that run scored and it was amazing to hear the loud cheer from all the fans that were there."
In the final, the St. Paul Storm came up against Irma. While the St. Paul team never game up, Irma was able to secure the win with a score of 12-7 and take home the gold medals, giving St. Paul silver.
At the beginning of the season, the 11U team almost didn't have even players to make a provincial A team. But, they brought up two underage players, and had one overage player join, along with having two ball players from Bonnyville.
"It was probably the most unique roster of any team that played this weekend," said Kully. "Even with everyone's differences, it was easy to see the bond that the kids formed."
On Diamond 5, the 13U A St. Paul Storm would also walk away with their heads held high after a strong performance.
The team started the weekend with a win against the Leduc Giants, 17-14. Game two also resulted in a win for the Storm, as they took on the Bentley Blue Jays and won 13-3.
Game 3 was a tight game, and the Beaumont BoSox would claim the win, beating the Storm 10-8. Then, Game 4 would see another tight battle, with the Storm losing by just a single run to the Thorsby Bandits, 7-6.
"Our team is full of amazing young men whose determination and grit is second to none," said coach Daryl Naundorf. "We went into Sunday knowing we needed a win to force a three-way tie for first place."
The boys "played their hearts out and left it all on the field," said Naundorf, adding, "Losing by one run as hard as it was, is a true display of their commitment to great baseball and competitive spirit."
Naundorf said he and his fellow coaches were proud of the team and are already looking forward to next season's successes.
Kicking off the weekend on Friday evening, opening ceremonies were held on Diamond 5. The ceremony brought teams from across the province together for an official welcoming.
Carrie Poulin sang O Canada, while Town of St. Paul Mayor Maureen Miller and County of St. Paul Coun. Maxine Fodness were on hand to greet the crowd. Joe Young of Young Baseball Development threw the ceremonial first pitch for the weekend, joined by his son Kaysen Young.
A total of 15 teams took part in the weekend tournaments.
Two busy weekends in St. Paul
As the president of St. Paul Minor Ball, Justin Blackburn said he was very proud of all provincial baseball and softball teams that took on the task of hosting provincials in St. Paul this year.
With three softball teams taking on the job over the July 8-10 weekend, and three baseball teams taking on the job from July 15-17, it made for two busy weekends in town.
"It's not an easy task to host a provincial championship and then to coordinate and do it for three levels adds to the complexity. Thank you to all our players, coaches, managers, tournament coordinators, parents and umpires, Town of St. Paul diamond maintenance crew, and sponsors for making this weekend (and the previous weekend) a success," said Blackburn.
And of course, "Congratulations to all of our... teams. I hope to see you all back representing SPMB next season."