Another Loss
By John Short

The Okotoks Dawgs extended their winning streak to three in a row and the Edmonton Prospects absorbed their fourth consecutive defeat in a fast-paced and well-played Western Canadian Baseball League game Friday night.

Both teams used the event as a prep for a rematch in Edmonton on Saturday, followed by the All-Star Game where former Canadian major leaguer Matt Stairs will be a prominent guest on Saturday.

Both teams managed all their scoring in the second inning. Edmonton’s promising start began when Neil Walker was hit by a pitch and Edgar Harrell singled sharply. Jake MacDonald’s safety scored Walker before Harrell became the team’s final run on a one-out RBI grounder by Pierce Blohowiak.

The Dawgs, tops in the WCBL’s Western Division, struck back immediately on singles by Will Hollis and Jacob Melton, doubles by Tristan Peters and Shay Shanaman, and a sacrifice fly by Isaiah Peterson.

Billy Brand gave up both Edmonton runs but qualified for the win on four innings of no-hit relief by Tanner Simpson and Dustin Schorle, who earned the safe. Trever Berg was pummelled for all Okotoks tallies but rallied to provide seven solid innings before Brandon Owens took over.

With the victory, Okotoks opened a commanding seven-game lead over the second-place Lethbridge Bulls. The Prospects, Fort McMurray Giants and Medicine Hat Mavericks are already in a serious race for the third and fourth playoff spots in the Western Division.

Tension-Filled Duel
By John Short

Relief pitcher Jon Guardado provided a valuable outing for the Medicine Hat Mavericks Thursday night, striking out the side in the ninth inning to preserve a 3-2 victory over the visiting Edmonton Prospects.

He opened his brief stint by fanning Pierce Blohowiak before walking Prospects lead-off hitter Brendan Luther who got to second base on a wild pitch but was stranded there as Guardado fanned Tyler Maskill and Travis Hunt to end the game.

Before Guardado reached the mound, Brandon Ponticelli, Hunter Cooper, Austin Oulds and Flynn Ridley limited the Prospects to five hits. Ponticelli surrendered both Edmonton runs in the first inning. Maskill scored on a Nolan Walker hit and he later scored on a single by Jake Gehri.

Edmonton starter Matt Erickson was touched for two runs before he left in the sixth inning. Nolan Rattai’s double scored P.J. Garcia in the first and and Taylor Wright squared things in the fifth on a scoring single by Sal Rodriguez. The Mavericks collected eight hits, including two each by Austin Sojka and Russell Strilchuk.

Medicine Hat’s decisive run, in the eighth, started on a walk to John Velasco. He was replaced by pinch-runner Tito Jones, who eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk. Jackson Bandow, Haden Dow, Scott Gillespie and Brandon Owens all pitched for Edmonton in the tension-filled frame. Owens provided the costly base on balls before fanning Wright and Rodriguez and leaving the Prospects needing only one run to stay alive.

Guardado’s top-level performance made sure the run didn’t arrive.


Back-and-Forth Game
By John Short

For the second night in a row, the Moose Jaw Miller Express held off the Edmonton Prospects for a narrow and intense victory in an error-filled, 10-inning Western Canadian Baseball League game at RE/MAX Field.

On the way to Moose Jaw’s 6-5 victory, Darrell Doll and Geordie McDougall each scored in the 10th after opening with singles off David Wylie. A wild pitch allowed Doll to score and Wylie’s error then made it possible for McDougall to score what would prove to be the winning run.

Clay Loranger replied for the Prospects in their half of the final inning after an infield grounder that could have gone as a hit but instead became the 10th error of the night. Surprisingly, only one of Moose Jaw’s total was unearned; Edmonton scored four of its five runs without the aid of an error.

Despite the numbers, a pair of brilliant outfield catches – by left fielder Tucker Zdunich in the ninth and right fielder Michael Borst in the 10th as Edmonton rallied – did much to provide the Miller Express victory. By sad contrast, outstanding outfielder Pierce Blohowiak mishandled a two-out, wind-blown fly by Zdunich as Moose Jaw scored an unearned run against Edmonton starter Taran Oulton.

Oulton and Moose Jaw’s Matt Jackson were outstanding despite adverse conditions until both left in the seventh inning.

Edmonton opened scoring in the first inning on bobbles by McDougall at third base. A triple by Zach Campbell and Zdunich’s single tied the game in the fifth inning and catcher Morky Melendez poled a long sacrifice fly to give his mates the go-ahead run two innings later.

A two-run burst in the ninth, featuring a Melendez double, created desperate circumstances for the Prospects, who battled back Singles by Davis Pratt and hot-hitting Travis Hunt and a double by Brendan Luther sparked Edmonton to a three-run rally, forcing both teams into extra innings but the deadlock lasted only long enough for Doll and McDougall to reach the batters’ box in the 10th.



Moose Jaw Comes From Behind
By John Short

Although the Moose Jaw Miller Express battered three pitchers for 17 hits Tuesday night at RE/MAX Field, the margin in a 6-4 victory over the Edmonton Prospects defeat was directly tied to shoddy play in the infield.

A poor throw by shortstop Javier Ramirez opened the door to one unearned run and three Moose Jaw runs in the seventh inning, erasing a 4-1 Edmonton lead. Two innings later, the same player’s error provided the ultimate two-run margin.

Moose Jaw earned the victory by putting at least two runners on base in every inning but the third and the eighth. Starting pitcher Austin Cannedy persevered through the first six innings by stranding 11 Express players. Zac Harrington was called in with one out in the seventh but was touched for Zach Campbell and Darrell Doll. Harrington was a perfect 1-2-3 in the eighth but the roof fell in when Cole Warken and Campbell led off with successful bunts in the ninth.

The decisive error on a grounder by Blake Gallagher scored Markus Melendez and Andres Garza, setting up reliever Jack Gamba to earn the save. He and Michael Ross retired the last five Prospects in succession.

Hard-hitting Travis Hunt smashed a long home run to the left in the first inning for the Prospects. Davis Pratt’s single scored Brendan Luther in the third and Edmonton padded its margin with two in the sixth on singles by Pratt, Hunt and Jake Gehri. Ramirez and Greyson Barrett were both hit by pitches in the same inning but did not come around to score.

With the victory, Moose Jaw evened its Eastern Conference record at .500, while the Prospects fell one game below that level with the loss. The three-game Western Canadian Baseball League series, in which Edmonton won the Canada Day opener 12-2, wraps up tonight at RE-MAX Field.