The Okotoks Dawgs hope to put an exclamation mark on the end of their Western Canadian Baseball League season with their fifth championship.
The way they punctuated the regular season with a Saturday 20-7 (!) bomb of the Brooks Bombers — also their first-round competition in the first round of the playoffs — the phrase ‘WCBL kings’ is something they can surely speak loud and proud about in the coming weeks.
“As a unit, this team will be incredibly difficult to beat,” said Okotoks Dawgs Academy head coach Jeff Duda. “This team has that brothers-in-arms type of mentality. From the coaching staff to each individual player, these guys will go to war and fight for each other until the very last out.”
The campaign to win a championship begins Monday night with Game 1 of the WCBL’s best-of-three quarter-final series against the incoming Bombers at Seaman Stadium (7:05 p.m.).
Game 2 of the 1-v-4 West Division matchup goes Tuesday in Brooks (7:05 p.m.), and Game 3 — if necessary — is slated for Wednesday back in Okotoks (7:05 p.m.).
The visitors bring into the series a sub-.500 26-30 record, while the Dawgs — the league’s best club during the regular season — boast a splendid 43-13 mark in the 11-team loop.
“Coach (Mitch) Schmidt and the rest of his staff have done an outstanding job mixing guys into the lineup,” Duda said. “The versatility and depth of the roster creates the ability for our coaching staff to move players around, making sure everyone is getting their reps while also keeping players healthy and fresh.
“This should pay dividends heading into the playoffs.”
Saturday’s regular-season finale sure seemed to see the Dawgs firing on all cylinders.
The offence exploded in the later innings of the game, as they put up a combined 11 runs in the eighth and ninth innings.
Dawgs infielder Brendan Luther, of Mississauga, Ont., finished the regular schedule with a .357 batting average — third best in the WCBL.
Teammates Noah Geekie, a pitcher/outfielder from Winnipeg, and Mark Pearce, a first baseman from Kamloops B.C., weren’t far behind with respective .351 and .349 averages. Then came fellow Dawgs Ricardo Sanchez, a shortstop from Mexico City, and Alejandro Cazorla, an outfielder from Calgary, with .342 and .341 marks.
Pearce has eight home runs to be among the league leaders, and his 45 RBI was second only to Nate Bach of the Regina Red Sox.
Dawgs outfielder Tucker Zdunich, of High River, Alta., collected 44 RBI.
The club hopes it all adds up to another title after winning last in 2019. The Dawgs were also crowned champs in 2009, ‘08 and ‘07, and the Calgary Dawgs earned the 2004 championship.
“Fundamentally, top to bottom, this team plays the game the right way,” added Duda. “And again, the versatility and depth is unmatched throughout the league. Another major factor in being a championship contender that is often overlooked is team chemistry. The roster has a strong Dawgs Academy presence, so there is a significant amount of pride and experience playing with each other. Plus the other roster additions from across North America have fit right in and have become Dawgs through and through.”
DAWGS vs. BOMBERS
Monday — @ Okotoks, 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday — @ Brooks, 7:05 p.m.
*Wednesday — @ Okotoks, 7:05 p.m.
* if necessary