The opening of the three-game heavyweight bout between the Okotoks Dawgs and the Weyburn Beavers proved why these two Western Canadian Baseball League division leaders could potentially be a final preview in August.
Canada Day Monday was the perfect stage for the Dawgs, performing in front of 5,040 Seaman Stadium supporters as they beat the Beavers 8-4 in Game 1 on Monday night in what previewed a shot-for-shot series.
The Okotoks club played out of character to start the game, allowing two runs to be brought in off errors despite Dawgs starting ace Nolan Ruff not having given up a hit in the first inning.
Mesa Community College hurler Ruff recovered from the rough start and improved to a WCBL best 5-0 record after pitching six innings, giving up seven hits and striking out nine batters.
The Dawgs cut the early lead in half on the swing of Oregon State University commit and shortstop Richard Mascarenas, who flexed his power for a traditional contact hitter and sent his second home run of the season over the wall.
Both teams tallied a run in the fourth.
After the Beavers regained their two-run lead in the top of the third, a sacrifice fly from Brett Esau, of Meadow Lake, Sask., brought the game within one again before the WCBL home-run leader Jack Barrie sent a solo shot over the wall in the fifth inning to once again double the Weyburn team’s lead with his 11th home run of the season.
A six-run fifth inning separated the Best of the West from the Beast in the East, as the Dawgs sent eight batters in the fifth inning to not only claw back into the game but rain base-hits on the Beavers to blow the game open.
Down 4-2, the Dawgs opened the inning with back-to-back doubles before a third straight base-hit gave the home side three runs in as many at-bats.
The assault on offence carried on after that.
With one out and the game at 4-4, the Dawgs wired back-to-back doubles from Thompson Rivers second baseman Liam Rihela and Dawgs Academy alumni and catcher Gavin Logan. Those set up University of Houston product Esau, who sent a moonshot to right-centre field into the tree-line outside of Seaman Stadium to complete the six-run inning and give the hosts an 8-4 lead.
Esau now has six RBI in five starts.
The Dawgs never looked back and kept the Beavers off the scoreboard the rest of the ballgame.
Game 2 between the WCBL’s best continues Tuesday night with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m.