Posted June 26, 2017


For the first time in ten attempts dating back to 2009, the Camrose Axemen were able to sweep the Westlock Red Lions in their annual double header. The Axemen would take game one 9-3 before winning game two 5-2 in front of a delighted home town crowd at Harry Andreassen Field in Camrose. The pair of wins moves the Axemen to 3-5 on the season while the Red Lions slip to 5-4 as the race for the NCABL Playoffs heats up across the league. 

Fans would finally get a complete performance from the Axemen with strong pitching, strong defence, timely hits and a couple of lucky bounces after the first have of the season seemed to offer the Axemen no luck. Until Sunday, the best the Camrose Axemen could muster against the Red Lions in their annual double header was a split, typically winning game one and losing game two of the double dip. In the NCABL regular season the Axemen have traditionally played the Westlock Red Lions in one of two double headers with the other double header moving from the Mayerthorpe Mets to the Sturgeon Paladins, then the Barrhead Orioles and back to the Mets franchise in 2017, this time in Stony Plain. The last time the Axemen were able to sweep a double header was May 31 2015 when they would win both games against the Barrhead Orioles in Barrhead.

Axemen vs Westlock double header history 
2008 - Red Lions 2-0 in Westlock
2009 - Split 1-1 in Camrose
2010 - Red Lions 2-0 in Westlock
2011 - Split 1-1 in Camrose
2012 - Split 1-1 in Westlock
2013 - Split 1-1 in Camrose
2014 - Red Lions 2-0 in Westlock
2015 - Split 1-1 in Camrose
2016 - Red Lions 2-0 in Westlock
2017 - Axemen 2-0 in Camrose 

In game one the Axemen would get their first complete game of the season from right handed pitcher Shawn Noble, who would win his second game of the season and second in as many starts. Noble would scatter six hits across seven innings of work striking out five and walking four. The big damage to Noble on Sunday afternoon came via Red Lions Nathan Swap and his two run home run to right field which had the right amount of back spin to float from a fly ball out to a home run with the jet stream. The home run in the top of the third inning by the Red Lions would be the first runs of the afternoon by either team and the only time the Red Lions would hold a lead during the two games. 

Noble would strand seven Red Lions on the base paths and with only three in scoring position as the second year Axemen pitcher would do a great job keeping the Westlock offence at bat for the during of game one. When the Red Lions looked like they would strike, the Axemen defence would come up big behind Noble recording a double play and a pair of line drive catches at the hot corner by Axemen third baseman Ryan Burton. The defence was finally getting some bounces to go their way. With one out in the top of the seventh Red Lions second baseman Aaron Watamaniuk would hit a line drive shot to Axemen first baseman Joe Pasychnyk who would sacrifice his leg to get a piece of what surely would have been a double down the line. The ball would ricochet off of Pasychnyk’s leg, to Noble who would quickly snap the ball back to Pasychnyk for the unconventional 1-3-1 putout. 

Opposing Noble was Red Lions right hander Kris Johnson. Always a difficult opponent on the mound for the Axemen to overcome, the offence started to get some timely hits and work some counts. After falling behind in the top of the third inning 2-0, the Axemen offence would respond in the bottom half of the third as lead off man Cal Zimmer would earn a walk ahead of centre fielder Jordan Riopel’s single and another walk to second baseman Ryan Petryshyn to load the bases with no one out. From here the Axemen would manufacture two runs as Red Lions young catcher Austin Latelle would be charged with a passed ball to bring home Zimmer before Pasychnyk would tie the game on a RBI fielder’s choice as the Red Lions failed to turn the double play. 

Axemen lead off hitters would reach base in four of the six innings they were on offence and in the bottom of the fifth inning Jordan Riopel would get hit by a Johnson pitch to start a four run inning for Camrose. After Riopel was retired on a fielder’s choice, the next four Axemen would reach base safely as Pasychnyk would single, Burton would collect his first RBI of the season on a single, designated hitter Shaun Painter would hit a RBI double over the right fielder’s head and finally left fielder Zach Bailey would reach base via an error on a hard hit ball to Red Lions second baseman Aaron Watamaniuk. Axemen catcher Kris Johnson would score the fourth and final run of the inning on a RBI ground out to make it 6-2 Axemen after five innings. The offence would score six runs, four earned, off of Johnson on five hits and six walks as the right hander laboured on the mound on Sunday afternoon. 

Westlock newcomer Taylor Heck would get the ball for the Red Lions in the bottom of the sixth inning. The youngster would be making his first appearance against the Axemen since pitching for the Barrhead Orioles in 2016 when they were in town for a double header. The Axemen would struggle against the right hander in 2016, losing to the Orioles 9-3 in game one. But on Sunday afternoon and out of the pen, the Axemen would score three runs on Heck on four hits on back to back one out singles from Petryshyn and Pasychnyk then two out RBI singles from Painter and Bailey to make it 9-3. 

First year Axemen Shaun Painter would lead the Axemen offensively finishing the day 3 for 4 with two runs scored and two RBI for his team leading five RBI’s on the season. Shortstop Cal Zimmer would add another two walks as the Axemen’s all time walk leader with 132 walks since joining the team in 2008 and Joe Pasychnyk would hit a pair of singles and score two runs on the afternoon. Every Axemen hitter would reach base at least once during the course of the game. 

In game two Axemen left hander Kyle Muzechka would make his second start of the season and pick up his first win in 2017 throwing six strong innings in the Sunday afternoon heat. Muzechka would be stretched out to throw six innings, the most he has thrown with the Axemen since throwing eight innings on June 26 2011 against the Mayerthorpe Mets in what was the longest game in NCABL history (thirteen innings). Muzechka would allow seven hits, all singles, to the Red Lions allowing only one run in the fourth inning when Red Lions Ryan Teske would hit centre fielder Nathan Brown home with a RBI single. Muzechka would strike out six Red Lions including two in the sixth inning when the Red Lions threatened with the bases loaded. 

It was in the sixth inning that the Axemen of the first half of the season almost made an appearance but instead Muzechka would dig deep and shut the door to preserve the lead and prevent a big inning. Already tired Muzechka would allow lead off singles to Nathan Swap and Aaron Watamaniuk but was unwilling to leave the game. Muzechka would strike out second baseman Kris Johnson despite losing starting catcher Kris Johnson during the at bat due to a leg injury. Rookie Zach Bailey would move from the designated hitter role and into the catcher’s gear but would show some rust early. With runners at first and second Teske would hit a weak dribbler out in front of the plate where Bailey would pop out, field the ball but a tough throw would pull first baseman Joe Pasychnyk into Teske causing him to drop the ball to load the bases with one out. The left hander from Vegreville would prove why he has been one of the best pitchers in the NCABL since joining the league in 2011 but gritting his teeth, striking out Red Lions designated hitter and future NCABL Hall of Famer Adam Sawatzky and getting youngster Taylor Heck to ground out to end the inning. 

Matt Andreassen would be the Axemen’s bullpen in game two pitching the seven inning allowing a run on a walk and hit batter after he would hit a ducking Red Lions short stop Jordan Brand in the helmet. This would be the first year Axemen’s fourth appearance of the season on the mound. The combination of Noble, Muzechka and Andreassen would surrender only one fly ball out to an outfielder all afternoon with the remaining outs occurring in the infield. 

The Axemen would manufacture a run in the bottom of the sixth inning as Cal Zimmer would get a one out walk from Red Lions Curtis Burlet, move into third base after two wild pitches before scoring on a sacrifice fly to centre field by second baseman Ryan Petryshyn. Burlet would pitch well but a couple of costly misplays by the Red Lions defence would lead to a pair of runs, one in the second inning and one in the fourth. Burlet would strike out six and walk four, hitting two Axemen in his complete game loss as well. 

There were a number of injury notes to go along with the two games. Axemen catcher and 2016 All Star Kris Johnson left in the top of the sixth inning due to a leg cramp sustained on the hot afternoon which seized up while sliding into the fence on a fly ball in foul territory. The Red Lions lost all star outfielder Chris Brand early in game one as he was removed to avoid re-injuring a knee once Nathan Brown arrived, while Brendan Watamaniuk (leg), Austin Watamaniuk (face) and Sean Beudoin did not play due to injury. 

A pair of wins moved the the Axemen ahead of the Sturgeon Paladins in the standings for seventh place, two and a half games behind the fourth place St Albert Cardinals who will be in town on Friday night. The Cardinals are winners of five of their last six games and have been surging in the standings making a bid for one of the four playoffs spots. The game is a make up game that was originally scheduled for June 14 but wet weather rendered Harry Andreassen Field unplayable. First pitch is scheduled for 7:15pm as the Axemen look to win their third game in a row and fourth in five games to end the month of July. 


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