June 20th, 2024

Lakers make a major splash as provincial hosts

By Dale Woodard on August 31, 2021.

This time, the Lethbridge Lakers were on the right side of the 10-run rule.

Just in time, too, because now they’re provincial champions as a result.

Facing the Okotoks Outlaws in the final of the Baseball Alberta U18 AA Tier 2 provincial championship Sunday night at Spitz Stadium, the young Lakers — made up of 15 and 16-year-olds competing in the U18 division — clinched the provincial bragging rights in six innings and the 10-run rule with a 12-0 victory.

Possibly playing his final baseball game, pitcher Carter Capton went the distance on the hill with a one-hit shutout for the win as the host Lakers avenged an 18-8 loss to Okotoks to start the provincial run Friday night.

They never hit the loss column the rest of the way, defeating the St. Albert Cardinals 13-12 Saturday and then dispatching the Leduc Black Gold 47s 9-4 in the semifinal Sunday afternoon to earn their spot in the final.

“It feels great, it validates our season,” said Lakers head coach Brandt Anderson.

“We’ve been pushing hard for a long time and battling and it’s been great to see the boys come together this weekend, especially with the way we started, getting (a) 10-run (loss) and then turning it around with straight ‘W’s from there and then in the final to finally claim that 10-run back and avenge our loss.”

With the provincial title clinched, Capton, 16, turns his attention to his other sport as he prepares to leave for the Brandon Wheat Kings training camp after the Western Hockey League club drafted the goaltender in the fifth round and 96th overall in the WHL bantam draft last year.

“I can’t speak, really,” said Capton.

“This group of guys are awesome. I loved them since Day 1. It’s pretty crazy to win in front of your friends and family and hometown.

“I think all the boys were committed and dialed in. I think that’s a big key to our success, being dialed in for the whole seven (innings). It helped us out today.”

After a scoreless first inning, the Lakers got rolling with three runs in the second inning and another in the third for a 4-0 lead.

A five-run fifth and three-run sixth put the game out of reach.

“It was exactly the start we were looking for,” said Anderson of the three-run second inning. “It gets the confidence, especially for our pitcher, Carter. It’s probably his last game of baseball before he goes off to Brandon. He might never step on the diamond again, so he wanted to come out here and show the way and he was great. As soon as the 3-0 was up on the board, he was jumping and excited and said ‘This is what we need.’ It was exactly the spark plug we needed and it just rolled from there.”

The provincial-opening loss to the Outlaws Friday proved to be the wake-up call the Lakers needed, said Anderson.

“I think for them, they understood that for a lot of guys, this is their last chance to play together as a group. So they want to go out and prove what Lethbridge baseball is all about, especially with us hosting. They weren’t going to sit back and let us get throttled. We really had a heart-to-heart after our first loss and they came together and basically said ‘We have to win.’ They came out and, sure enough, they fired through and it was great to see.”

Like any starting pitcher, Capton welcomed the chance to get the ball in a championship game.

“The nerves are there, but it’s awesome to pitch in front of your family,” he said.

“It’s possibly my last game in baseball and I’m happy to have everybody here.”

Anderson enjoyed watching his pitcher go the distance.

“Before the game we were talking and it was basically ‘This is probably your last game of baseball. Go out and do it.’ I’m proud of him and happy to see him do what he did. It was great to see the team come around and help him out the way they did. It was great, top to bottom. I’m proud of these guys.”

The Lakers also capture the 2021 banner as first-time hosts and do so after spending the entire summer on the road.

“It was great to be at home and have all the family around, but it’s extra special to us because that’s a hell of a ball club we played,” said Anderson of the Outlaws.

“We’ve lost all three times this year, so it was great to finally have this win and have the energy to feed off of the home crowd. It was a special moment, especially as a coach, to see that and as a player, that’s what they thrive for and live for. It’s great to see them be in their element and play the game they wanted to play all along.”

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