By Jesse Sawyer
Prairie Baseball Academy
There have been some memorable Prairie Baseball Academy games over the program’s 20 year existence. That being said, Sunday’s game may go down as the most memorable one yet, considering what was at stake. It had been some 1,800 days since another Canadian College Baseball Conference team held the championship trophy and with a 5-4 victory over the Okanagan College Coyotes this year’s version of PBA made sure it would remain in Lethbridge for another year.
After having breezed through the first four games of the tournament outscoring their opponents 53-9 PBA faced by far the toughest test of the weekend on Sunday. Okanagan College advanced to the final earlier in the day with a 14-9 victory over University of Calgary and had momentum on their side heading into the final against PBA.
PBA kicked off the game with a bang in the bottom of the first inning. Freshman Brett Brittany launched his team leading fifth home run of the season to left field. In the bottom of the second the Dawgs tacked on another run with a Chance Wheatley RBI ground out.
The Coyotes answered in the third cutting the lead in half. The score remained the same until the top of the fifth inning. Luc Hebert walked the first two batters of the inning. As expected OC put a bunt on and a mental lapse and poor throw and catch at third led to the game-tying run scoring to leave OC with runners at second and third and none out.
Coach Todd Hubka went to his bullpen for Thursday’s starter Jared Libke, who struck out a batter and then made his only mistake of the day leaving a breaking ball up in the zone. Aaron Barrett smacked the pitch into the left centre gap to score two more runs. Libke struck out the final two batters of the inning to get out down 4-2. Libke pitched five innings giving up only two hits and striking out seven After the fifth he was locked in, keeping the Coyotes at four runs to give his offense a chance.
The Dawgs went quietly in the fifth after losing the lead. In the bottom of the sixth tournament standout Dustin Braun smoked a double off the tip of the right fielders glove to lead off the inning. Three batters later Nick Ankermann scored Braun on a single to left field. After six the Dawgs had closed the gap to one. Braun finished his PBA career hitting a tournament best .526.
Two three up, three down innings by the Coyotes left the Dawgs down to their final at bat. They most certainly did not disappoint.
Wheatley had a one-out single on a line to right field and after a battle Layne Currie followed by getting a ground ball to sneak past shortstop. With one out runners on first and second. Brittany was next and struck out on a nasty pitch from Mitchell St Laurent.
Down to the final out Cory Scammell stepped up with the season and a streak of five championships on the line. As has been the case all year Scammell smoked the first pitch he saw on a line to right field easily scoring Wheatley to tie the game. An incredible way to top off a record breaking year for Scammell. Scammell finished the tournament with a .458 average, 14 RBIs, three doubles and two homers. It was a remarkable way to close out his PBA career.
As for the finish of the game. Matt Malec was next and like Scammell, Malec swung at the first pitch. A hopper through the 5-6 hole scored Currie and the celebration was on. The players mauled Malec in right field in front of a group of PBA parents, family members and supporters. It was an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved.
It will be a tough pill for the Coyotes, but hats off to their players and coaching staff on the week. Kelowna was a tremendous host city, and the Coyotes did a spectacular job all week on and off the field. The Coyotes will return most of their lineup in 2017 and surely the experience they gained this year will motivate them even more to come back and battle it for the title next season.
So that is it for the 2016 PBA season. Another memorable one to say the least. The Dawgs annual golf tournament takes place Tuesday at Henderson Lake. Many players on the roster will be play in either Alberta or Saskatchewan in the Western Major Baseball League. Almost all of the graduating players from this year’s squad will be moving on to US four-year schools. Check back in a few weeks for an update on the graduates.
This year’s team had one of the best academic years in program history as well as being so good on the field. It is a testament to mission of the Prairie Baseball Academy program.
Thank you to all the supporters who traveled to Kelowna. It will only be a few short months until September rolls around and a new crop of talent will show at Lloyd Nolan Yard.
There will surely be talk of the 2016 final game, and hopefully it will motivate any new recruit to work hard to be involved in a never-forget moment like that of their own.