Bantam Dawgs drop heartbreaking provincial final
Lacrosse: Sherwood Park A's shock three-time defending champs
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 07, 2013 06:00 am
With just six outs to work with the Sherwood Park Athletics rescued victory from the jaws of defeat at the expense of the Okotoks Bantam Black Dawgs.
After five scoreless innings without seriously threatening to cross the plate, the Athletics caught lightning in a bottle with a four-run top of the sixth inning to steal a 4-3 victory in the Bantam AAA provincial final, Monday at Tourmaline Field.
“Our guys just don’t give up ever,” said Athletics head coach Kevin Billesberger. “We knew we were going to be there all game as long as we kept our defence and pitching tight.”
Starting hurler Ben Schmidt ensured they did, overcoming a challenging first inning.
The Dawgs got off on the front foot with a two-out rally in the top of the first. Shortstop Ben Tighe’s looping single to left field drove in a pair. Brawley Douglas’ slap single then scored Tighe to give Okotoks an early 3-0 lead.
It would be all the offence the provincial hosts could muster.
Schmidt found his groove and put in a sparkling complete game effort on the biggest stage in Alberta’s Bantam ranks.
“I knew if I tried my hardest my team would have my back,” Schmidt said. “We knew what we were up against, (Okotoks) is an all-star team, we had to play our best and all come together. We got effort from everybody on the team.”
Dawgs starter Garrett Smiley was in cruise control through five, posting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third, and stranding a pair of Athletics in the top of the fourth.
In the top of the sixth, the Athletics small-ball philosophy paid immediate dividends. A bunt and throwing error and a double in left field from Sherwood Park’s Jackson Campbell put the visitors on the board.
Jayden Buxton relieved Smiley, who put in yeoman’s work on the mound in his first start in six weeks due to an arm injury, but the Athletics would not relent.
A’s catcher Ryan Koop’s sharply hit line drive drove in two to tie the game at 3-3. Sherwood Park had runners on first and third with two out and executed a double steal to perfection. The Dawgs attempted to tag the runner between first and second and during the rundown Sherwood Park scored what would hold up as the winning run.
Schmidt came in to close the contest in the seventh, striking out the final two batters to put an exclamation point on the shocking come-from-behind win.
“Really, we didn’t capitalize on our chances with runners in scoring positions as much as we could have,” said Okotoks Daniel Donnelly. “They just played better, you’ve got to hand it to them.”
Dawgs head coach Greg Wolfe said the youthful Dawgs will learn from the lapses in judgment they made in the final.
“These are 14 and 15 year-old kids and sometimes things can become a little overwhelming and their emotions take control of game,” Wolfe said. “There are things you need to work on as an athlete and that’s what we found out today.”
Smooth swinging catcher Peter Hutzal picked up tournament MVP honours for the Dawgs, matching his award from a dominant performance at the 2012 provincials.
Okotoks finished with the top record in pool play at 4-1 and mercy-ruled the Athletics 11-1 in five innings in the round-robin finale on Sunday.
“This isn’t the end of the world for anybody,” Wolfe said. “They’re going to go through bigger things this month, they’re going to go through bigger things in their baseball careers and in life.”
The Bantam Black Dawgs’ season isn’t over just yet.
They will be at the Western Canadian championships, featuring the second and third place provincial representatives from B.C. to Manitoba. Okotoks will also play host to the U15-U16 prospects series at the end of August.
“We’re looking forward to (Westerns),” Donnelly said. “And we know that we will come back stronger and remember this loss.”
The Bantam Red Dawgs posted an identical silver medal showing at the Tier II Bantam provincials, bowing out to the hosts from Red Deer on Sunday.
For more information see jdawgsbaseball.ca