Saturday June 10, 2017
Dawgs earn their stripes in extra innings
By Dustin Saracini
Fort McMurray, AB. - The Okotoks Dawgs (5-2) bounced back tonight in dramatic fashion.
On the shoulders of a commanding performance from Dawgs Academy product Graham Brunner, the red and white won their second game of the road trip, 2-1, against the (1-6) Fort McMurray Giants in 11 innings.
The 17-year-old was on from the first time he stepped to the mound, limiting the Giants to three hits over 5 2/3 innings, allowing just one earned run and fanning three.
“He’s a college pitcher already, he can pitch at that level,” bench coach Dave Robb said after the contest.
“There’s no question, I know he can pitch in our conference very easily. It was nice to see and I was very impressed.”
The quality start, mixed with a shutdown effort from the bullpen opened the door for what happened in the top of the 11th.
Following a Ryan Humeniuk (Indian Hills - Okotoks, AB) infield single, Peter Hutzal (Iowa Western - Calgary, AB) put a charge into a fastball, driving it down the left field line for a double, cashing in what would go on to be the winning run.
What got them to that point is a different story in itself.
Yesterday, coach Robb discussed the importance of an early lead. With limited tweaks to the lineup, Okotoks heeded his words.
Greg Cullen (Niagara University) continued his dominance in the third inning, gathering his second hit of the night with a ground-rule double to right field. Jayse McLean (North Dakota State University) dug in behind him and promptly exchanged spots with his teammate at second base, handing the Dawgs a quick 1-0 edge for the first time in three games.
The Giants knotted the tilt at one with an awkward ricochet off the turf. A weak grounder bounced off the base of the pitcher’s mound and into shallow left, allowing Jordan Stickler to cross the plate. 1-1.
The red and white were 90-feet away from reclaiming the lead in the eighth after Humeniuk sliced a ball into the right-centre gap for a one-out triple. The momentum was short-lived, though. A heads-up defensive play at first base cut down the Okotoks product at the plate, who tried to score on a ground ball. This preserved the tie and sent the game to extras.
Things looked bleak for the Dawgs in the bottom of the tenth. The Giants worked their way into a bases loaded, one-out situation. Omar Celaya (Nyack College) wasn’t going to give in, striking out Travis Turner before hauling in a weak line drive, providing his teammates with one more chance.
“It’s nice to see the guys don’t give up,” Robb said.
“[Omar] was fit to the task tonight, that’s for sure. It’s nice to see him, [Corey] Jackson, those guys stepped it up too, we’re going to need that later on.”
Tyler McWillie, Corey Jackson (New Mexico Junior College - Calgary, AB) and Tyler Burdett (Dixie State) each combined for 4 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, with the latter recording the save.
Coach Robb believes a tightly-knit contest and an extra inning win brings the team that much closer.
“You can see the bench was in it all the way,” he said.
“The road trip itself will bring guys together … but a game like this especially; bases loaded, one out, it wasn’t looking very good. We pitched out of it and everyone got really excited, and that’s huge … that was big time for us.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
Greg Cullen (R) : 2-4, R, .370 AVG
Ryan Humeniuk: 2-4, R, .176 AVG
Graham Brunner (R): 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 SO
WP: Omar Celaya (1-0) LP: Dave Erickson (0-1) SV: Tyler Burdett (2)