Friday June 30, 2017
Vernia shuts down the Bulls, Dawgs take over first place
By Dustin Saracini
Okotoks, AB - The (15-8) Okotoks Dawgs took over sole possession of first in the West division tonight with a 3-0 win over the (14-9) Lethbridge Bulls.
With the shutout victory, the red and white now take a 4-3 season series lead.
Justin Vernia (Gonzaga University) was lights out for Okotoks, limiting Lethbridge to just three hits over eight innings of work. Following the first three frames, the dominating Gonzaga product didn't allow a hit the rest of the way. The quality outing was the longest for any Dawg this campaign, fanning eight while walking just two.
“One big thing was, I was ahead of almost every batter I can think of,” Vernia said following the win.
“That makes it really easy to pitch when you’re always ahead. All four pitches worked really well tonight … [My go-to pitch] was probably my cutter today. Cutter away to righties, and to lefties it kind of looks like a fastball and they’re missing it, getting it off the end of the bat.”
“My goal, every start, is to go nine and not let anyone else pitch, and if I could do that, it’s a good day,” he smiled.
Kody Funderburk (Dallas Baptist) blasted his fifth home run in the bottom of the second to kickstart the Dawgs offence. Following a three-up, three-down first inning, the four-hitter showed exactly what he’s capable of, extending on a 1-1 fastball to the deepest part of the stadium and over the wall for a 1-0 Dawgs edge. The bomb stretched his hitting streak to four, notching six hits over that span.
The bats kept coming in the bottom of the fifth. Newly acquired Craig Spencer (MacMurray College) immediately made his presence known with a line drive into right field, moving Darius Foster (Oregon State University) to third. Eddie Sanchez (Central Arkansas) then dug into the box and dropped a bunt down the first base line for an infield single, scoring Foster and moving the lead to 2-0.
Sanchez finished the contest with his fifth multi-hit game in his last seven.
Okotoks would later plate another run off an error at second base.
In the top of the ninth, Tyler Burdett (Dixie State) trotted in from the bullpen to preserve the 3-0 lead, walking away with his seventh save of the campaign.
Up next is a Canada Day matchup against the reigning champion Swift Current 57’s.
“It’s going to be fun to see,” Vernia said.
“I heard it’s a blast.”
BY THE NUMBERS:
Justin Vernia: 8 IP 3 H 0 ER 2 BB 8 SO
Kody Funderburk (R): 2-4, HR, RBI, .321 AVG
WP: Justin Vernia (1-0) LP: Greg Hollman (3-1) SV: Tyler Burdett (7)