Will third time be the charm for the Senior AA A’s?

A’s reliever Mike Desjarlais worked 1 and 2/3 innings to hold the lead late en route to a Game 2 semifinal win. Photo Supplied

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There are conflicting adages stating that “bad things come in threes” and that “the third time is the charm.”

The Sherwood Park Senior AA Athletics are certainly hoping that the charm one has a bit more weight to it.

The Athletics, a team that was formed 10 years ago by a collection of Park players who wanted to keep together as a unit on the diamonds past their minor baseball careers, has come very close to finally achieving their goal of capturing their first North Central Alberta Baseball League championship on a couple of occasions of late, and have made it to the championship series again this weekend.

Two years ago, they made it to the final only to be swept in two straight by the Westlock Red Lions.

They came back even more determined than ever last season, winning their first pennant in team history as the top team in regular season play by putting together an 18-3-0 regular season run which saw them outscore opponents 202 to 96.

Unfortunately, they would have nothing to show for it once again, losing out in two straight games to the Edmonton Blackhawks.

This year the A’s were just as solid in their regular season run, finishing in first place once again by posting a record of 17-4-0 while outscoring opponents 170-58.

They took on the fourth place Westlock Red Lions in Westlock last weekend and managed to lock down a spot in this weekend’s league final as they search for their first-ever championship crown.

Game one of the semifinal series turned into a bit of a laugher as they exploded with 24 hits to score 21 runs on their way to a 21-3 rout of the Red Lions.

“We were actually down 2-0 in the first inning and had to battle through a little bit,” said A’s playing coach Brett McElroy. “But then the offence really came alive. Our pitching also gave us a great effort all the way through. We scored in every inning and got contributions from everybody in the lineup. It was a great way to set the tone.”

Kevin Dryburgh earned the victory on the mound for the A’s.

The Sherwood squad made it a semifinal sweep in Game 2 with a 7-4 victory.

After the Athletics exploded for five runs in the sixth, the Red Lions could do little more than attempt a last gap comeback scoring two runs in the bottom of the seventh before Cody McElroy put out the fire by registering the final out of the game.

“They threw their ace at us in that game and we were down in that one as well,” coach McElroy said. “Finally, our offence broke through during the third time through the order. Our pitching battled for us all game long and kept us in it and we were able to close it out late.”

The winning pitcher was Kyle Muzechka.

The Sherwood Park Senior AA A’s celebrate a Game 2 and semifinal series win to send them through to the championship series this weekend in St. Albert. Photo Supplied

Although there has been disappointment in the finals the past two years, McElroy believes his team is stronger than ever as they prepare to face the second-place Edmonton Blackhawks in the League Championship Final Series this weekend.

“I definitely feel like we have made improvements to our squad,” he said. “Our pitching and hitting are both deeper than in previous years. Our defence has been strong for us all year, although we had a couple of hiccups in the semifinals. We are confident that will be corrected for this weekend. The biggest thing is for us is that we are not reliant on one pitcher or a couple of hitters to do all the damage for us. It is a complete team effort and that takes the pressure off our guys. Everybody just goes out and plays and the results will handle themselves.

“As competitors, everybody on our team wants to win and finally get ourselves a championship. We are excited about the opportunity. All you can do is put yourself in the best position to win and see what happens. Baseball is a funny game sometimes.”

Unfortunately, the A’s will not get to play the championship series at home as would be expected, as their usual abode at Centennial Park’s Diamond No. 9 will be occupied this weekend by Brent Saik’s Guinness Book of World Records attempt to play the World’s Longest Baseball Game.

As a result, the NCABL final will be played Saturday and potentially Sunday at the Legion Field in St. Albert.

“It’s a bit different to go 17-4 and then have to play the entire playoffs on the road,” McElroy said. “But sometimes circumstances dictate that you have to battle through some adversity. St. Albert is a park that we have played in lots and all of our players are comfortable there. Dimension-wise, it is very similar to Centennial, so it shouldn’t detract from our strengths as a team at all.”

Game 1 takes place on Saturday at 1 p.m., with Game 2 scheduled immediately afterwards at 4 p.m.

Should Game 3 prove necessary, it will take place on Sunday at 2 p.m.

sjones@postmedia.com

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