The Okotoks Dawgs are returning to the Western Canadian Baseball League finals for the first time since 2011 after beating the Lethbridge Bulls 4-3 Tuesday night at Seaman Stadium.
“I am very proud of these guys,” said Dawgs coach Mitch Schmidt. “Just heart and soul, absolute grinders, you couldn’t ask anything more out of them.”
The win gave the Dawgs a 2-1 victory in the best-of-three West Division final.
Grinding himself practically into the dirt was the Dawgs JT Patterson, who slid into home plate for the winning run from second base on a two-out single by Mr. Clutch, Tristan Peters, to make it 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth.
“I was sliding, I was going to be safe regardless — I wasn’t taking any chances,” Patterson said with a smile. “It’s a great feeling. It feels nice to contribute.”
Patterson, a graduate of the Dawgs Academy, belted 24 homers for Bellevue University in the spring, but had a partial torn hamstring this summer with the Dawgs.
Peters, another Dawgs Academy grad, hit a drive to right field to bring in Patterson.
“It was a thrill,” Peters said. “A fastball, I got a little jammed on it and it was enough to push it in the hole and score the run, but if we didn’t get those first three runs (early in the game), I wouldn’t have had the chance.
“It is so exciting to get to the final, we plan on winning this thing too.”
Thrilling, but the Dawgs still had three more innings to hold off the Bulls.
They put the Hammer down.
Justin Hammergren, who came in for starter Brandon Desjardins in the top of the sixth with the game tied at 3-3, pitched four shutout innings to pick up the win.
“It was always feels good to get some punch outs,” said Hammergren, who had seven strikeouts. “You always want to be out there. I never felt too much pressure.”
Hammergren got some help in the top of the sixth when centre fielder Davis Todosichuk made a running catch on Bull Dylan Borman’s Texas leaguer.
Dawgs’ shortstop Ricardo Sanchez then snared a line drive off the bat of Robert Bostedt to end the inning.
Hammergren allowed only one hit in the final three innings, including 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth to secure the victory.
The Dawgs appeared to be on Easy Street as the jumped out to a 3-0 lead after three innings.
Lead-off hitter Peters started the game by stroking a double and would come into score on a single by Jacob Melton to make it 1-0 after the first inning.
They would up the lead to 3-0 in the third. Melton led off the inning with a double and would score on a two-out double by Dane Tofteland.
William Hollis then brought Tofteland home with a single.
The Bulls would close the gap to 3-1 in the top of the fourth. Lethbridge tied the game at 3-3 in the top of the fifth when Hank Forrest tripled to bring in Jaret Seminiuk.
Forrest would tie the game when he crossed the plate on a fielder’s choice.
Dawgs starter, Brandon Desjardins, who usually pitches in relief, gave Okotoks four strong innings before getting help from Hammergren.
Okotoks will now try to win their first championship since the 2007-09 glory days of Kumar-Duda and Co.
They will either face the Regina Red Sox or the Swift Current 57s, who are tied at 1-1 in the Eastern Division final.
The East deciding game is Aug. 14 in Regina.
Check OkotoksToday.ca for schedule of the WCBL final.