Red Dawgs return home with silver
Baseball: Okotoks tripped up by Ontario 6-1 in final
By: By Remy Greer
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 06:00 am
Team Ontario had the Okotoks Dawgs seeing red in the Midget national championship.
The Dawgs’ remarkable run for Canadian gold in Trois-Rivieres, Que came to a halt in Sunday’s championship final in a 6-1 loss to the London Badgers, the Ontario representatives.
“We swung the bats well in the finals, all tournament we swung the bat well. They just beat us,” said Dawgs infielder Brian Granton, putting the result firmly in perspective. “Coming from where we were, the third best team in Alberta and beating the number one team in Alberta to get here, it’s definitely a success, no doubt.”
An RBI from Okotoks’ Justin King in the bottom of the second was all the offence the Dawgs could muster against the dominant Andrew Fletcher. The Ontario starter held Okotoks to just two hits and one walk over seven innings.
“We hit the ball hard, but right at their (fielders),” said Dawg Matt Lloyd. “They were playing right in the right spot all the time. It was basically bad luck.”
Ontario used a three run inning in the fourth and two-runs in the sixth to take control of the contest.
“We beat Ontario the first time and felt good and thought we saw all these guys, but we didn’t see this kid (Fletcher),” said Dawgs coach Allen Cox. “We didn’t get to him until the fifth inning when we started hitting it hard, but hit it right at them.”
The two teams opened round-robin play on Thursday with the Dawgs picking up a 6-2 win on the strength of five strong innings from pitcher Austin Ely and a pair of RBI from Isagha Eagletail.
Alberta capped off a dream opening day with an extra-innings 5-4 win over B.C. Okotokian Josh McKinnon picked up the win in two innings of relief work and catcher Riley Guntrip gave the Dawgs the walk-off win through an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth.
“It was second and third and one out and I was just thinking whatever I can do to score this run so we win as a team,” said Guntrip. “To get a walk-off hit at nationals is just an unbelievable feeling.”
Putting themselves in the drivers’ seat with two massive victories on day one felt pretty good too.
“We were feeling confident to say the least,” Guntrip added. “We finally started believing in our chances in the tournament.”
The Red Dawgs lost their first game of pool-play on Friday 5-1 to Quebec, allowing five runs in the final two innings.
“Right after the game we rolled out in the bus to the indoor facility and we practiced for two hours after that loss,” Cox said. “
Thanks to some good old fashioned batting practice, they bounced right back with 18 hits to edge the hosts Trois-Rivieres 12-8 on Saturday. Drake Kirkwood led the charges going 4-for-5 with 5 RBI while McKinnon and Lloyd each added a pair of ribbies.
“That Trois-Rivieres team, we thought they were the best team in the tournament by far,” Cox said. “When we beat them it was back-and-forth and we had Lloyd on the mound and had to use him to go after that number one-seed.”
Ironically, the defeat over Trois-Rivieres opened the door for Ontario to qualify for the medal round.
Okotoks’ 3-1 record was good enough for first in the pool and advanced the Dawgs to a semifinal showdown with Saskatchewan on Sunday morning. Ely was again the star, posting a complete game shutout and allowing only three hits in Okotoks’ 4-0 win. Kirkwood, King, McKinnon and Jaggar Gallant each drove in a run as the Dawgs spread out the offence to advance to the championship game.
Ely, a rookie at the Midget level, was named the top pitcher at the tournament in recognition of two wins from the bump in 12 innings of scoreless work.
The 2013 championships marked the third consecutive year the Midget Dawgs have advanced to the national final. The Midget Black Dawgs earned the first Canadian championship in junior academy history last year.
Just three players are graduating from the Red Dawgs meaning the core group will have at least another run at the national championship.
“We were the youngest team by far at the tournament.” Cox said. “But all-in-all for these underage guys to win the silver medal at nationals is pretty cool and everyone of them comes back but three.”
“We’ve got two more years to try and win this thing again.”
For more information on the Dawgs Academy go to jdawgsbaseball.ca