Friday June 02, 2017
A walk-off in Okotoks
By Dustin Scaracini
OKOTOKS, Alta. - The Okotoks Dawgs started their 2017 journey in front of a sold out crowd at Seaman Stadium Friday.
A year ago, the red and white owned 33 wins -- their most since 2011 -- and the best record in the WMBL. They looked to duplicate that success in the early goings of their campaign.
In the top of the ninth, you could hear a pin drop in a stadium of over 3,500 passionate fans. The Dawgs carried a 5-2 lead before a handful of errors paved the way to a 6-5 Medicine Hat Mavericks advantage moving into the final frame.
Things would change quite quickly in the bottom half, though. With a pair of runners on, Greg Cullen (Niagara University) drove a double off the wall to score Eddie Sanchez (Central Arkansas) and Peter Hutzal (Iowa Western) for the Okotoks lead and a victory in the first game of the season by a 7-6 score.
“I was just thinking see a fastball, hit a fastball,” Cullen said following the contest.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of change-ups today. So I was telling myself just see a fastball, hit it the other way and I got my pitch ... We have a lot of talent on this team, so any way I can contribute, I’m happy to do it every night.”
Cullen said he was taking in the energy of Seaman Stadium prior to first pitch.
“It’s crazy,” he said. “I’ve never seen an atmosphere like this before. It’s phenomenal, a lot of great people around here support their Dawgs, it’s unbelievable.”
Okotoks was unable to grab a win in their first three games a season ago. Cullen said getting the first one out of the way this early is important, to say the least.
“It’s huge,” he explained.
“It builds a lot of chemistry. A loss there would have dampered us a little bit. I think just pulling that off in the last inning is great.”
CJ Lewington (University of Arkansas Pine Bluff) brought forth a quality outing in his first appearance, hurling five strong innings of two-run ball. His offence did the rest in for him.
The Dawgs wasted zero time getting on the scoreboard, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Hutzal picked up exactly where he left off prior to his ankle injury last year, blasting a ball off the left field wall for a stand-up double. A pitch away from being stranded, Kody Funderburk (Dallas-Baptist) worked a two-out walk before new-face Jayse McLean made himself known to the Okotoks fan base in his debut. In his first at-bat, The North Dakota State University product barrelled a ball to left-centre for the Dawgs’ second stand-up double of the inning, driving in a pair of runs.
Five-year veteran Brendan Rose continued the party with a rip through the 4-3 hole to give the Dawgs an early three-run lead.
Okotoks found the scoresheet again in the bottom of the fourth.
Joel Brophy worked a six-pitch walk prior to Hutzal sending a screaming single to left. Cullen then dug into the box and hit a two-strike fly bsll to right field, scoring Brophy. Hutzal later crossed the plate for his second run of the game following a critical error in left field, handing Okotoks a five-run lead.
Nick Vickers would come on to provide quality relief, with two scoreless before passing the torch to Corey Jackson. Jackson was fast and efficient in his debut, pitching 1 2/3 innings of one-run ball while striking out one.
BY THE NUMBERS
CJ Lewington: 5 IP 4 H 2 ER 3 BB 4 SO
Nick Vickers: 2.0 IP 1 H 1 BB 3 SO
Peter Hutzal: 3-5, 3 R
Greg Cullen: 2-4, 3 RBI
Jayse McLean: 1-3, R, 2 RBI, 2B
WP: Tyler Burdett (1-0) LP: Barry Caine (0-1)