Okotoks, AB – Just when it all seemed hopeless for WCBL league-leader Okotoks Dawgs, the switch was turned on and the ice flowed through the heart of the roster through the hot summer night as the Dawgs pull-off an incredible ninth inning comeback to shock the Medicine Hat Mavericks 6-5 Tuesday night.
For the first time this season, the Okotoks Dawgs end a ballgame leading in the game-losing categories while trailing in the game-winning categories but still came out on top in the most important stat… the final score.
The Dawgs yielded a season-high 14 hits and were kept quiet on offence for four straight innings down the stretch (from the fifth to eighth) while committing three errors to the Mavs’ zero.
Mesa Junior College pitcher Nolan Ruff put his perfect 5-0 record on the line but did not pitch to his usual dominating standard.
The Glendale, AZ native pitched out character as the Dawgs ace totalled season-lows in innings pitched with five and only fanning seven while yielding season-highs in hits with 12 and surrendering five runs.
The Dawgs pitching staff yielded a season-high 14 hits while committing three errors, an irregular showing for the leading Western Division squad with the lowest error count this season.
Okotoks’ bullpen, however, kept the defending WCBL champions at bay and kept them off the board in the final three innings.
The Dawgs opened the contest with a 3-0 lead early on two sacrifice-plays from eventual walk-off hero Bellevue University outfielder Kory Longaker and Texas State’s Will Hollis before an RBI single from WCBL batting average leader and Chandler-Gilbert outfielder Tristan Peters tallied a base hit.
Defending champion Mavs shrugged the deficit off, tying the game at 3-3 by the fourth inning before Okotoks regained the second lead-change on a Davis Todosichuk RBI double in the bottom half.
Medicine Hat put a two-spot in the sixth and forced Ruff out of the game.
Fortunately for him, his relief team came through in the clutch and were only forced to give up one run thanks to an RBI fielders-choice double-play which Academy of Arts pitcher Galen Manhard salvaged the situation in the sixth inning.
Manhard entered the game into a bases-loaded situation with no outs. He forced a groundball that drove in a run but added the first two outs of the inning before fanning the next batter to escape the jam.
Okotoks did not see a run on the scoreboard until the ninth inning, trailing 5-4 Medicine Hat took the game’s third lead-change from the sixth inning on while being shutout from the fourth.
What seemed like a recipe for a losing baseball game, the Dawgs adjusted to the situation and managed to load the bases after starting the bottom of the ninth with two outs.
Mavericks closer Jon Guardado blew the save situation after walking Okanagan College’s Todosichuk and Peters back to back. Following a double-steal, he walked his third Dawgs batter in Oregon State commit Richard Mascarenas to load the bases setting the stage for Bellevue University’s Longaker.
“The crowd got behind the guys. Going into the ninth, the guys knew he (Guardado) pitched seven innings with eight strikeouts but had seven walks with around a 7.00 ERA. We watched him like a hawk in the bullpen and everything followed suit,” says Dawgs head coach Mitch Schmidt.
He slapped an RBI single straight up the mound and into the outfield to drive in the tying and game-winning run.
“I felt like I had it. It was coming down to me… I had a rough night but every at-bat is different. I just knew in my head he wasn’t going to beat me and I knew I just wasn’t going to lose,” Longaker says.
The two-game sets shifts to Medicine Hat where the Dawgs will look to close out the home-and-home series starting Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m.