Dawgs restock for run to league title
Baseball: Championship is the goal at Seaman Stadium
Wednesday, May 30, 2012 06:00 am
The goals are always high for the Okotoks Dawgs before the start of the Western Major Baseball League season.
The opening pitch for the 2012 season is just days away and the focus for Dawgs’ players, coaches and staff are clearly on winning another championship.
“The expectations are on us as coaches and we put those expectations on those players,” said Dawgs coach Brandon Newell. “Those expectations are to win a WMBL (Western Major Baseball League) title.”
The Dawgs begin their quest June 1 when they take on the Mavericks in Medicine Hat. For Newell, the quest began just a few days after the Dawgs’ final out in the WMBL finals loss to the Regina Red Sox in August.
“I spent a few weeks with my family in Washington and then I started looking for players,” Newell said. “Universities and college coaches want to get their kids settled in to summer leagues in the fall – they don’t want to worry about it in the spring when they are playing.”
The Dawgs’ reputation for not wearing out pitchers’ arms or straining a catcher’s knees by having him play a lot of games has made the Okotoks Dawgs an attractive team for college players.
It’s also made Seaman Stadium an attractive place for returning players, many of whom will make up the Dawgs’ pitching staff.
“We have Ryan Rogers coming back and he is a guy who had a great summer for us last year,” Newell said. “We expect him to be at the front of our pitching staff.”
The hard luck Rogers had a deceiving 4-4 record last summer with Okotoks, but the hard-throwing southpaw’s stuff was good enough to have him selected a WMBL all-star.
Coming back after a one-year hiatus are Bret DeRooy from Washington State University (WSU) and Danny Britton-Foster who will pitch for the Dawgs.
“Both of those guys know what the expectations are,” Newell said. DeRooy was 4-0 with the Dawgs in 2010, while Britton-Foster was 4-3 in a comeback year that season.
Connor Russell, who had a 5-0 record in 2011, will also be back after an impressive spring with the Victoria Island Baseball Institute.
Some new arms Dawgs’ fans should keep an eye on belong to Dalton Mellott and Trent Wilson.
“Mellott can throw up to 94 miles per hour,” Newell said. “He’s a freshman who has had command problems, but we are looking forward to see if we can iron those things out and get him to throw strikes.”
Matt Thornton, who struggled last year with the Dawgs, is healthy and ready to help Okotoks’ bullpen.
“I was talking to some scouts who were saying that he was throwing 91 to 94 miles per hour,” Newell said. “If he is that fast and with his split finger, those three guys (Mellott, Wilson and Thornton) will solidify the back-end of our bullpen."
If the pitchers can throw strikes, they will have help behind them.
“The one thing I think we will really have is great team defence,” Newell said.
The Dawgs should also be able to hit and run.
Returning second baseman Rylan Chin not only runs like a greyhound, he’s also improved his hitting stroke.
“Chinny had a great year at Campbellsville (in Kentucky) where he hit .418,” Newell said. “He is a Dawgs grad who knows what is expected.”
Stetson Olson from WSU is a big hitting first-baseman who will arrive in Okotoks on June 4.
“He is a six-foot-three, switch-hitting first baseman,” Newell said.
There will be a familiar face at third base, but he was in a different uniform when fans saw him at Seaman Stadium.
“John Apostolo was arguably the best player in the league last year, but with a bad team,” Newell said.
“He was Edmonton’s (Prospects) best player. He hit .327 with Edmonton, which is a tough place to play. Last season he came to us on the last game of the year and asked us to play.”
Thomas Rodrigues from Quebec and Trace Tam Sing from WSU will split time shortstop this summer.
“Trace is a kid who kind of fell into our laps,” Newell said. “He played in the Cape Cod League last summer and they didn’t want him back because he didn’t play very much at WSU. I had scouted him when he was in high school and I know he is a good player.”
The infield will also have depth with Drew Pettit, who can play any position, coming back for his third year with the Dawgs.
The outfield will be led by Dawgs Academy grad Tyler Hollick who was third in the WMBL in hitting last season with a .407 average. He was also was named the WMBL’s 2011 rookie of the year. He hit an eye-popping .475 for the Chandler-Gilbert College Coyotes in the spring.
The other outfielders include Jared Bartnik, Zac Asman, and returning Dawgs James Stewart and Austin Voros.
“We expect Bartnik to hit in the middle of the line-up,” Newell said. “He was a run producer at UBC. Asman is a little dirt bag grinder who will hopefully hit at the top of the line-up. If we have him and Hollick at the top of the line-up those are two pretty good table setters for the big guys in our line-up.”
Newell said they also have the power to clear a table quicker than a busboy at an all-night diner.
“Austin Voros, Bartnik, Apple (Apostolo), Jordan Procyshen, Olson and Pettit can all hit with power,” Newell said. “Okotoks fans all know Voros – he loves being a Dawg.”
The Dawgs’ first home game is against the Lethbridge Bulls on June 6 at Seaman Stadium at 7 p.m.