Parkland Whitesox move into first; may move on from NCABL

By Gord Montgomery

Sports Editor; Spruce Grove Examiner

It took a few weeks to get there but the Parkland Whitesox have moved back into familiar territory atop the standings in the North Central Alberta Baseball League (NCABL).
That though might not be the only move the team makes over the next while, as they’re beginning to find their talent level far surpasses that of most clubs in their present league. As such, skipper Doug Jones stated on the weekend, they are seriously tossing around the idea of shifting over to the Sunburst League if things don’t change dramatically in the near future in their present home.
The Sox played a pair of inter-league games that had no bearing on the NCABL standings but did on the state of mind of his team, as they defeated the Red Deer Stags 10-1 and the St. Albert Tigers 5-3.
Asked if those wins were the result of his club “ramping up” their game to meet what is considered a better level of play, Jones quickly agreed with that assessment.
“Definitely. There is something about playing in that (Sunburst) league and to be honest the boys are way more amped up to play in that league than ours. In order to hang on to, and attract the top calibre of players you need to play in a league of that calibre all the time.”
One major difference between the two senior-level leagues is the fact that the Sunburst plays nine inning games compared to seven inning outings in the NCABL. While that may not seem like a lot, it is and creates more challenges for both players and coaches, Jones noted.
“It was a great all-around performance by everybody. Those are nine inning games so I started Aaron Huber and then used Jamie Cameron and Josh Turner to close out the game.”
In league action, the Sox passed the Sherwood Park Athletics in the standings to take over top spot with a 3-0 win behind another solid mound effort by Turner in the battle for first place.
“We had a home run hit by Brad Sinclair. We didn’t do a lot of timely scoring in that game and that’s the difference. In the Red Deer game we had guys doing everything right to move runs across the plate, doing everything at the right time. Coming back into the league – and the Park is a good team and it probably should have been more than 3-0 – but I don’t even know if they hit a ball out of the infield,” the skipper said.
Bouncing over to the Sunburst again after that win, the Sox upended the Tigers in the opening game of their annual tournament, which was drowned out by rain. The fact his team can cross over to a so-called higher level and do so well shows how good this team, the defending NCABL champs, has become this year.
“This proves we can do this,” he said. “It’s our team playing up to the level of ball we know we can play. In the NCABL we sometimes play down to the level of other teams.”
Cameron picked up the win in that game but couldn’t go the distance simply because of the extra innings played. Scott Hoekstra provided the big blast in the game with a three-run dinger.
For now at least, even though the grass does look greener on the other side of the outfield fence, Jones noted his club will continue to honour their obligations to the NCABL and play every game in the proper manner.
“We will have to play the games the right way – not base-to-base and go after everything we can get,” he said of preparing for a major tournament in Kelowna, B.C. at the end of the month and staying sharp against league opponents even though their hearts may not really be totally immersed in those challenges at this time.
The Sox were scheduled to play the Edmonton Jays on Thursday, after press deadline, in a game in the Grove if the weather allowed. 
The Whitesox will then play host to the Sturgeon Paladins on Sunday, June 26 in a double at 1:30 p.m. at Henry Singer Field.

Sox fall to Prospects in tournament final 

Sox stymied in tounament championship game
By Gord Montgomery
Sports Editor, Spruce Grove Examiner

In tournament play you never know what you’re going to get. Hopefully every game is close and well played but you know every once in a while you’re going to run into a non-competitive match-up.
As it turned out the lame games were the case twice for the Parkland Whitesox over the weekend at a tournament in Camrose, with only the championship final being worthy of note, and they ended up losing that one.
The Sox began by battering the Calgary Diamondbacks 26-0 in a game that only went five innings but could well have been stopped after one, as the Parkland squad built up a 9-0 lead before their first three outs of the game.
“We were just going base to base after the first inning but there’s only so much you can do,” skipper Doug Jones said of his team not stealing bases or using hit-and-run plays and trying not to embarrass the other team too badly. “The guys aren’t going to go up there and try to go out on purpose though.
“The guy they threw was decent but if he was their top pitcher, he only would have been in the bottom end in our league.”
Despite the blowout, Jones did manage to find a glimmer of good in the win.
“If there was a bright spot in that game, and it was the only one, we hit slower pitching that quite often handcuffs us.”
Things didn’t get much better, competition-wise, in the second game as the Sox shot down the Combine Pilots from Provost.
“They weren’t bad; maybe middle of our league,” Jones said of another five-inning contest where the Sox only scored three times in the opening inning before pulling away.
As it turned out, the final between the Sox and the Prospects Baseball Academy was the marquee match everyone was hoping for and it made up for the lack of competition earlier on, Jones said, even though his team came out on the short end of a 2-0 score.
“Cam (Prospects’ coach Houston) and I were talking before the game and said we should have just played a triple header against each other,” Jones quipped about the easy route both teams had in making it to the title game.
“This was a great game. That is one nice ball team,” the local skipper said of their opponent. “That was the type of game we were looking at playing, the type of games we want to be playing for the rest of the year,” as opposed to the high-scoring, walk in the park variety of their first two encounters in the tournament.
The Sox were back in league action on Wednesday night in Camrose. They return home on Thursday, June 9 against the Westlock Red Lions and again on Thursday, June 16 versus the Edmonton Blackhawks.

A performance that would've made an old friend smile

By Gord Montgomery

Sports Editor; Spruce Grove Examiner

It may have just been Game No. 24 on the slate in the NCABL and No. 4 for the Parkland Whitesox, but for Josh Turner this was anything but an ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill league game.
Sure, it was his first start of the season and he was looking to keep the Sox rolling with a strong mound performance but more than anything, this game to him had an extra special meaning beyond the fact he was facing a perennial powerhouse in the league, the Mayerthorpe Mets.
You see,  Turner had dedicated this game, and his performance within it, to the memory of a former college teammate, and roommate, at the University of Western Alabama  when they both suited up for the baseball Tigers.
By game’s end, his buddy would have been the first in line to congratulate Turner on his complete game, two-hit, eight strikeout 2-0 shut out win. In fact, the local pitcher was so dominant in this one, he gave up only two hard-hit balls all night.
The first was a one-out double in the first inning and although that runner advanced to third, he got no further.
The second came after Turner bobbled an infield pop-up in the final inning and the Mets’ clean-up hitter launched a monster shot into left field looking to tie the game up. That shot hooked foul however, and the batter was eventually retired on strikes. The final out came on a weak ground ball.
Afterwards, Turner said he felt comfortable on the bump for the most part, despite that double in the first.
“I just tried to get into a good routine to start the season. Sometimes it takes a little while to get a feel for the field, the other team, find your arm slot and whatnot. But once I find that groove I can just go with that and run with it.”
A big part of any pitcher’s success is the defence in place behind him, and while Turner does chalk up a number of K’s each time he pitches, he knows his teammates are ready to pitch in when needed, both on defence and offence.
“It’s nice having those guys around because you know they’re going to perform night in and night out. It’s nice having the guys in there that can hit the ball and score some runs for us.”
While the Sox didn’t push a pile of runs across the dish in this win, they got enough thanks to a wicked RBI line-drive double by catcher Scott Hoekstra, who then scored the insurance run on a wild pitch in the second inning.
Turner made those runs stand up as he went the distance, throwing under 100 pitches. His manager, Doug Jones, said he wasn’t surprised the right-hander could work the entire game simply because he’s that good.
“His start to the season is a little slower than other guys which is why we had him not throw until the fourth game instead of earlier on,” the skipper explained. “That’s just the way he throws, but you’d never know he was ready to throw a seven inning game.”
As for that final inning, Turner said he made a mistake to the hitter who went deep with the crooked fly ball, but he made up for it in a hurry.
“Blair (McGeough, a teammate who played for the Mets in the past) gave me a little tip. He said don’t go off-speed with this guy. It was a curve ball I threw that he hit deep so I went back to the hard stuff. I actually got him out with a curveball in the end.”
Jones said there really wasn’t much thought about replacing Turner on the mound in the last inning, even though he did have a couple of arms warmed up in the bullpen.
“We had Chris Shaw and Myles Ethier ready but, nah, there really wasn’t much of a decision to be made. That pop-up, that wasn’t his (Josh’s) ball. Blair’s new to the team and we told him, ‘Next time, you bark loud and clear that’s your ball.’
“It was kind of a goofy play.”
Asked about his appraisal of his own performance, Turner replied, “It felt good. I want to dedicate this game to my best friend who passed away this past February. I played ball with him for four years in the States so I kind of wanted to come out and have a good start to the season and dedicate it to him. He was one of my best friends so it helped me with motivation to go out there and get it done.”
And on this night, if that friend was looking down, he would have been smiling at the effort his buddy gave to get it done.
The Whitesox are back in action at Henry Singer Park in the Grove on Thursday, June 9 against Westlock in a game that begins at 7:15 p.m.

Sleeping lumber awakens with a roar for Sox

By Gord Montgomery

Sports Editor, Spruce Grove Examiner

Like a big grumpy bear coming out of a winter’s hibernation, it took a while to rub the slumber off the lumber for the Parkland White Sox.  The thing is, the wood eventually roared to life on the weekend even though they hit the snooze button a time or two.
It took the Sox three games for the lumber to come to life but when it did, it was as dangerous as a ravenous grizzly looking for some lunch after a long winter’s nap.
The local team opened with a 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Edmonton Athletics and then stumbled slightly, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Edmonton Warriors before turning around and mauling that same team 19-1 in the nightcap of their double dip.
In reviewing the trio of games to open the NCABL season, and defence of their league championship title, skipper Doug Jones said the early lull on offence caught everyone by surprise.
“We had a great batting practice (the night before the opener) and then to come out and start as slow as we did in that first game,” was frustrating, he noted. “It was the same thing Sunday. We had chances but didn’t capitalize in the first game.
“They threw their ace in the second game and we were driving balls off the wall,” Jones said of his club struggling in the opener of the doubleheader with a slower speed pitcher.
Josh Turner and Scott Hoekstra both cleared the fence with long balls in the nightcap. The bench boss noted the big flies weren’t wind-aided even though there were gusts upwards of 90/kmh, and possibly higher, during the game.
“We hit the ball hard in the first game too, but right to them,” Jones continued. “That happens to us when it’s a weaker pitcher. Our guys don’t adjust well to that and we don’t really want to. 
“This guy didn’t have anything special but he threw strikes in the right place and did his job.”
In the season opener last Thursday, the game plan for the Sox basically blew out the window, along with about three pounds of shale dust in the breezy conditions, as Jamie Cameron went the distance, recording 10 strikeouts, for the win. He was originally slated to toss four innings, max but he wasn’t about to stick to that idea.
“Well, that’s Jamie,” Jones cracked. “He’s been throwing since January and he’s in mid-season form. He glares me down even when I’m just walking out to say ‘hi’ to him.”
Andrew Slinko came up with the clutch hit of the night when he ripped a bases loaded sixth inning double, plating the go-ahead run which Cameron made stand up.
“We battled back. We were only down a run but we came back and that impressed me,” Jones said of that game.
Aaron Huber went the distance on the mound for the Sox in the second game and took the tough loss while Myles Ethier picked up the victory on the bump in the third game.
“The relief guys just aren’t ready yet,” Jones commented about throwing his starters so long, so early.
“I’ve got a couple of arms that still need a little tweaking. (Starter) Josh Turner takes a bit longer to get going and all these guys have been throwing a lot in the off-season.”
While this wasn’t a perfect start for the Sox, it was as close as you can get so the skipper wasn’t bemoaning the lone loss.
“We definitely gave away a game,” and are now sitting at 2-1 instead of 3-0, said Jones. “Was that one we couldn’t afford to give away? I guess we’ll see when the end of the year comes.  Then again, I don’t think it will hurt us that bad. It doesn’t make any difference if we’re in first place or fourth when the playoffs come.
“It’s not a game you want to give away but I’m not worried. If we were 1-and-2 then that would be a little different.”
The Sox were back in action at home on May 19 (after press deadline) when they hosted the Mayerthorpe Mets.


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