Two players made all the difference in Alberta's thrilling 3-1 win over Saskatchewan Friday night at the Canada Cup.
Towering left-hander Alex Regan carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning with a staggering 11 strikeouts, frustrating Saskatchewan's mostly lefty line-up all night with his inside curveball, and second baseman Jimmy Ralph stole a jaw-dropping six bases, scored two of Alberta's runs and drove in the other.
To make the story more surreal, Regan and Ralph are hotel roommates this week in Kindersley.
"(He pitched) a great game," Ralph said of his starter. "He pitched a gem for sure. We backed him up and got the hits."
Regan won Alberta's game MVP award, a decision more difficult to make than choosing a vacation spot.
"Something just clicked this morning when I woke up," said Regan. "I just came out and threw my best, and they couldn't hit it, I guess."
Indeed they could not. Regan retired 18 of 19 batters heading into the final inning, the only blemish on his line being a walk to Tyler McWhirter in the fourth inning.
It was McWhirter who tagged Regan again in the first at-bat of the seventh, this time breaking his no-no bid with a single to right field. The shortstop would come in to score on a bloop single by Ben Douglas, but that was all the offence the home side could generate.
"It felt pretty bad," said Douglas. "I wished we could have got a couple hits here and there earlier in the game, but it didn't happen."
Having only two righties in the line-up certainly hurt Saskatchewan's cause at the plate, especially when it came to hitting a late-breaking inside curveball that Regan delivered with regularity.
"It's been on and off all season and it really worked tonight," Regan said of his out pitch. "I just knew that I needed to keep hitting my spots, throwing strikes and letting my defence do what they do best. If it comes down to the clutch plays, I know they'll have my back."
Meanwhile, Ralph was just as key to the Alberta win. The leadoff man went 3-for-3 with a walk, an RBI, two runs scored and six stolen bases. Saskatchewan starter Giles Virgin also put in a terrific outing and Ralph was virtually the only Albertan able to hit him.
"You gotta make your reads, but I was feeling confident, feeling fast today," said a grinning Ralph following the game. "So after the first read, I wasn't getting the signs, I was just going.
"I read (the pitcher) when I'm in the dugout and I see his pauses and everything. I usually know when he's going to go to the plate."
In the top of the third, in Ralph's second at-bat, he walked, proceeded to steal second and third and scored on a wild pitch. Two innings later, he singled, stole both bases again and scored on a sac grounder by Kym Barthel. Ralph also stole second base both of the other times he got on board.
In the top of the seventh, he delivered an insurance run when his first-pitch single to right field scored catcher Jordan Procyshen.
"They stole a few bags there and that got them in scoring position. Normally (catcher Luke Barry) throws those guys out," said Procyshen. "But some of those guys are just too fast, they got too good a jump, and he couldn't get them."
The result means Saskatchewan and Alberta are tied atop Pool B at 3-1 (along with Nova Scotia) heading into Saturday, the final day of round-robin play. Saskatchewan takes on Nova Scotia in the morning, with Alberta playing Newfoundland in the afternoon.