Seaman Stadium was in a playoff mood and proved it when the Okotoks faithful rose to the occasion and lifted their beloved Dawgs – who came through in the clutch with an epic 7-2 game-one victory over the Edmonton Prospects in the opening round of the Western Canadian Baseball Leauge playoffs.
Okotoks began their quest for their first league title in a decade with an emphatic beatdown of the divisional rival after hanging a five-run bottom of the eighth inning on the Prospects – crushing the hopes of an upset just a few innings after the Western Divison champions were pushed to the ropes.
“After that go-ahead run crossed the plate, it was all over,” says Dawgs head coach Mitch Schmidt.
Edmonton evened the ball game in the fifth inning on a wild pitch despite notching just three base hits through the contest but continued the press on offence the next inning.
The Prospects continued to push Dawgs ace Nolan Ruff and managed to take the lead on just their fourth hit of the contest before loading the bases but the Dawgs hurler stopped any more damage from happening.
NCAA Division II Regis University prospect Ruff got the nod in game-one of the Western Division semi-final round against the Prospects after ending the regular season with a 7-0 record… also on his 20th birthday.
He left the contest with 7.1 innings pitched, surrendering six hits while fanning nine in his Okotoks playoff debut start.
Being pushed to the ropes for the first time in their early playoff run, the Dawgs answered thanks to a two-out solo bomb from Indiana State product Dane Tofteland in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game 2-2.
In the seventh, Ruff bailed himself and his Dawgs out of a jam once again after giving up a two-out triple but once again escaped out of the jam.
Enter Seaman Stadium.
The Dawgs’ spirits were lifted by each one of the 3,489 in attendance while the Prospects began to prolapse on the field.
Okotoks loaded the bases with one out after Tofteland was intentionally-walked with runners in scoring position, setting up the stage for 18-year-old hero Richardo Sanchez.
The Dawgs Academy shortstop laid down the perfect bunt single to not only drive in the go-ahead run but also keep the bases juiced.
“The coaches said I had to do it no matter what and that’s what I told myself. I turned on the jets and saw there was no one covering first,” Sanchez says commenting on his go-ahead bunt.
“The reaction was special. You hear about it and then you actually experience it.”
On deck batter Rihela went on to single and again, leave the bases loaded to double the Okotoks lead at 4-2 for the next man on deck.
The Prospects seemed to already prolapse thanks to the roar from the Seaman Stadium crowd while seeing game-one slip away but insult was added to injury by the WCBL regular season batting average king.
Chandler-Gilbert product Tristan Peters flew out for the second out of the inning but the throw from the right-field completely missed the target and plummeted in the backstop allowing for two more Dawgs to cross the dish.
Okanogan College senior Davis Todosichuk concluded the outburst with an RBI base knock of his own.
The Dawgs travel to Alberta’s capital and will look for the sweep of the Prospects with the first pitch set for 7:05 p.m.