If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
Not wanting to stray from what’s been a dominant season on the diamond the Okotoks Black Dawgs struck early and often en route to a 12-3 victory over St. Albert to overpower its way to the Bantam AAA provincial championship Sunday at Conrad Field.
“The boys played ball like they did all year,” said Bantam Black coach Lou Pote. “We didn’t put any pressure on it, we always emphasize it’s just another game and that we don’t play against the opponent, we just play the game we’ve been playing all year.
“It’s a special group, they’re unselfish, they care about each other and the biggest thing is they come and have fun doing it.”
Okotoks did not waste any time taking control in the gold medal game.
Leadoff hitter Ty Johnson took the first pitch he saw deep, bouncing on the top of the right field wall and into the parking lot to give Okotoks the 1-0 lead in bottom of the first.
“I was looking for a pitch to drive, first pitch trying to get on and help my guys out,” Johnson said. “It just happened to go out. It gave the boys some energy and helped us feel it for the rest of the game.”
The Dawgs had much more to show in the inning.
Tyrell Chadwick drove in a run on a sharp liner, Brandon Green repeated the feat and after an error and fielder’s choice the Dawgs claimed a 6-0 lead in the first.
“Two years ago we were in the same situation,” Pote said. “We had won the league title in regular season and then got to the final and we hit a home run to lead off the game. To have it happen again, for us it takes the nerves off a bit, makes everybody relax and then our starter did what he did.”
Jake Rabe took over from there and held the Cardinals scoreless beyond the top of the second.
St. Albert bounced back with three runs, but didn’t threaten from there.
Rabe went six innings to pick up the win in convincing fashion.
“I was really nervous at the start, but I’m always nervous. As soon as I got my first few pitches I was good and getting into it,” Rabe said. “It gives me a lot more confidence when I’ve got a big cushion. I know if I give up a few runs, it’s okay, just keep throwing strikes.”
The hurler helped his own cause in the bottom of the third launching a no-doubter over the right field wall for a two run shot. Dryden Howse drove in two in the inning on a double and following a Cardinals error it was an 11-3 advantage for the provincial hosts.
“He hadn’t been out there for a while,” Pote said of the starter. “The one inning they got three runs he fell behind a little bit and after that he got back into working ahead in the count and attacking hitters. With his stuff it’s going to make it hard on teams.”
Matt Neufeld put an exclamation point on the victory with another solo shot on a towering drive to deep right centre field in the sixth.
Blake Davidson came in to shut the door and shut he did. The reliever struck out the side in the seventh to sew up the championship.
“It feels good to represent our academy,” Johnson added. “We dominated all year and it’s just good to have something to show for it.”
The domination extended into the provincial weekend.
Okotoks picked up convincing victories over St. Albert, the Calgary Cubs and Sherwood Park Athletics to advance to the final.
Fort McMurray offered the biggest hurdle with the Dawgs eking out a 3-1 win over the Oil Giants.
“It was good to be in a good game like that because you don’t know how the rest of the tournament is going to go,” Pote said. “When you’re beating teams by a lot of runs and you get into close games and it can put a little more pressure on you.”
Okotoks shifts its focus onto a bigger prize.
The Dawgs are off the Bantam AAA National Championships, the Ray Carter Cup, in Summerside, PEI from Aug. 24-27.
“We will give them a couple days off,” Pote said. “Then start preparing to hopefully bring back another gold medal.”
For more information on the Dawgs Academy go to jdawgsbaseball.ca