At Least One More Game Remains
By John Short

Down to what could have been the last out of the season, a Tennessee infielder stroked the single that kept the Edmonton Prospects alive for at least one more Western Canadian Baseball League game.

The 10th-inning hero was third baseman Tyler Maskill, who steered a two-out ground ball through the middle and into the outfield for two runs and a 5-4 victory over the Okotoks Dawgs to square the best-of-three Western Division series 1-1. The decisive game goes tonight in Okotoks, where the Dawgs staged an eighth-inning rally to earn a 7-2 victory on Thursday.

Maskill’s timely single, key blow in a three-run rally, scored Javier Ramirez and pinch-runner Davis Pratt, who had replaced Beaux Guilbeau as soon as he reached second base – and possible scoring position – with two out.

For 2,121 spectators at RE/MAX Field, the decisive inning was obviously a thrill. But it was not a classical rally. The single by Maskill came after relief pitcher Galen Manhard plunked Pierce Blohowiak and Ramirez, back to back, with one out. Soon, with Brandon Desjardins now on the mound, they staged a double steal that put both in scoring position. A sacrifice fly by Travis Hunt was the second out and drove Blohowiak home with the first run. Then Guilbeau and Jake Gehri coaxed bases on balls from Desjardins, loading the bases and setting the stage for Maskill’s well-placed hit.

All of this drama was made possible by winning pitcher Hunter Boyd. All he did was throw an estimated 150 pitches in a complete game. Head coach Jordan Blundell and pitching coach Austin Guzzo made a couple of signs that they wanted to relieve the gritty Boyd. The ultimate decision to leave him in was tied in many ways to the marathon stretch of six games in three days. Edmonton won all six – otherwise, no playoff berth – but exhausted almost their entire relief staff in order to do so.

Because no relievers did more than warm up lightly as Boyd struggled in late innings, it’s reasonable to suggest Taran Oulton, the scheduled Game 3 starter for Edmonton, will have some pitching allies available if needed.

Boyd’s weariness showed in both the eighth and 10th innings. Tristan Peters and Davis Todosichuk scored in the eighth after reaching base with none out. A Prospects double-play – third of the game engineered by Boyd’s pitches – ended that burst.

In the 10th, Jacob Melton led off with a double and Jaxon Valcke moved up with a bunt single. Gavin Logan’s single left two on with none but Boyd dug deep into his supply of talent and character to retire the next three Okotoks hitters in a row.

Edmonton had a 2-0 lead after six innings, thanks to Guilbeau’s RBI single in the first and a run-scoring triple by Jake MacDonald in the eighth.

Lefty starter Justin Hammergren pitched well but left with two out and his team trailing in the seventh inning. Manhard retired the next 11 Prospects, almost without incident. Then came the two hit batsmen, a whole new game and a whole new playoff series. The survivor will meet either the Lethbridge Bulls or Medicine Hat Mavericks, who also split the first two games of their series.