Sylvan Lake Mariners have brought the provincial championship title back home.
A month-long playoff journey for the Sylvan Lake Bantam A Mariners culminated in gold for 14 athletes from Bentley, Spruce View and Sylvan Lake.
The newly minted provincial champion team had a bit of a rough start before the season even began. A team member who was going to be a large part of the team was no longer able to commit to the season.
“The team needed to move forward, and we did with one call to Bentley Alberta and we “found a diamond in the rough”, a young man who inspired to play provincial handball,” explained Head Coach Ryan Lucas, describing the time surrounding the start of the season as exciting.
It was on June 29 when the players were asked by their coaches what they wanted from the season.
They wished to learn more and to win a provincial championship.
With ground rules set, the team went on their journey that led them to claim the provincial title in their tier.
The first games of the season were played in Trochu on July 9. The team won over the Coronation Royals (23-5) and the host team Trochu White Sox (6-5), though they lost against Rocky Mountain House 23-13.
Two more loses on July 15 took the team to below the .500 mark after losing to Hanna and a “really solid Fort MacLeod Royals team.”
“The boys could have easily hung their heads and giving up on “The Goal” but the coaching staff, parents and the players themselves believed they were still a great team that got beat by another great team,” said Lucas.
Another loss that weekend for the Mariners was a real turning point for the team.
After a 17-10 defeat in a rematch against Hanna, the boys opened up in an honest an open discussion, according to Lucas.
“The players opened up looked at the coaching and themselves and just opened up, without fear or consequence. It was a major turning point!” said Lucas.
The Mariners played in the provincial plays July 21-23, but not before one last practise to bring the team together.
After the first day of playoff games, the Mariners were looking at a 1-1 record, with one win against the Leduc Giants and a loss to the Parkland Twins.
The third game in the playoffs was a tough on for the Mariners as they faced the leading team the NEZ Padres from Edmonton.
“Padres swept their 2 games on Friday, so a huge game for us as we would be tied in record with them with a win,” explained Lucas.
The win against the Padres was described as a “team win” for the Mariners by Lucas.
They played with strong fundamentals and sound defines coupled with strong swings on the bat.
In the final game before the the title game, everyone was on edge. A loss would mean a tie-breaker game would be needed, a win would move on to the championship.
The game against the Coronation Royal on July 23 was back and forth the entire time.
Until, the Mariners “got to their bullpen, and the runs started coming in bunches.”
The Mariners went on to the title game against the Parkland Twins, a rematch with the only team to beat them the entire weekend.
But, Lucas said the boys were ready.
Great pitching by the Mariners brought the team ahead 5-3 in the first three innings.
A pitching change came in the middle of the game, on a gut feeling by Lucas.
“A pitching change was not required “but I needed to play percentages and go with a hunch” and fortunately it paid off as our second pitcher continued the wonderful pitching performance set out from inning one,” said Lucas.
By the bottom of the sixth, the Mariners were in the lead 11-3.
Another hunch brought in another pitching change.
The team’s excitement was palpable and tension was thick in the air.
The Twins battled their way to another two runs, but had two out and only one man on base.
One more and the game was done.
The bullpen was alive with activity as one last pitch was about to be brought home.
“The Mariners were able to execute the final out by throwing out the runner on third as they tried to score a run on a passed ball at home,” Lucas said.
The Mariners were able to complete all their goal and brought home the provincial title.
“It has been a great baseball year for Sylvan Lake, with our outstanding performances in the Girls Fastball Program, U10 girls Provincial Silver Medalists, to CABL medalists in our Mosquito Baseball Programs, and all four AA teams competing in Provincial championships the weekend of July 28 to 30. I am just so proud to be part of Sylvan Lake Minor Ball and to see the success this town has had in just a short period of time.”
With the season now at a close, there are a few people Lucas would like to thank.
The coaching staff who “kept him grounded”, Jamie, Troy and Jon.
Lucas also wants to thank the catching advisor Trevor and the team manager Terri. He also mentioned his thanks to the “best bat boys ever” Adam, Aaron and Samuel.
“And last but not least “The Meatheads”: Tyson A, Aidan S, Justin G, Huxley S, Kyeran N, Diezel W, Justin L, Levi M, Brendan R, Sam J, Wil D, Ben S, Nate B, Bryce K. Without you guys believing in yourselves and believing in the plan none of this would have come true!”
With an amazing year for baseball in Sylvan Lake, Lucas believes it isn’t just a hockey town anymore.