The long and the short of it is, the Okotoks Dawgs won Game 1 of the Western Division semifinal over the Edmonton Prospects in a thriller.
The Dawgs' Dane Tofteland tied the game at 2-2 with a long solo blast over the left field wall in the bottom of the sixth and then Ricardo Sanchez would put Okotoks ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth on a short hit — a suicide squeeze bunt to score a sprinting Jaxon Valcke from third with the bases loaded Thursday night at Seaman Stadium.
Four more Dawgs would cross the plate in the bottom of the eighth as Okotoks went on to the 7-2 victory.
Sanchez, who just finished Grade 11 at Holy Trinity Academy, showed veteran character in laying down the perfect bunt.
"They changed the pitcher and the coaches told me, 'okay you have to bunt on the second pitch'," Sanchez said. "The pitch was down, but when it came off the bat, I knew it was a good bunt."
Sanchez would beat out the bunt to keep the bases loaded.
Liam Rihela followed with a single to score Gavin Logan from third. Tristan Peters would then knock in two runs on a sac fly and an error to make it 6-2.
The Dawgs rounded out the scoring when Davis Todosichuk — with his grandma celebrating her 90th birthday in the stands — knocked in Rihela.
However, it was far from an easy 7-2 victory.
The Prospect took a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth when Beau Guilbeau singled in Javier Ramirez who got on base with a double.
It could have been a whole lot worse for the Dawgs that inning.
Dawgs starter Nolan Ruff pitched out of a one-out bases loaded jam — striking out Tyler Maskill to end the inning.
Okotoks wasn't behind for long. The 6-foot-2 Tofteland blasted a solo shot off of southpaw Matthew Erickson in the bottom of the sixth to tie it at 2-2.
"The ball I hit was just a mislocation," Tofteland said of his second home run of the season. "It was a change up low and in and I put a pretty good swing on it. I squared it up pretty good."
Ruff didn't get the decision on what was his 20th birthday, but he put up some impressive numbers.
He had nine strikeouts and gave up six hits in 7 1/3 innings.
"Of course I wanted to finish it, but they made the right decision to take me out," said Ruff, who was 7-0 in the regular season. "When Dane hit that home run, ties the game, it gave us a fighting chance. I knew I had to turn it on for the boys."
Ruff would give up a two-out triple in the top of the seventh to Pierce Blohowiak, but shut the door down by striking out Ramirez to end the inning.
Brandon Desjardins replaced Ruff with one out and one Prospect on in the eighth and retired five straight Prospects to record the victory.
Ruff didn't care that he wasn't the pitcher of record.
"This is a huge victory," Ruff said. "We want to keep the streak going and win five more."
The Dawgs need the momentum. Edmonton has knocked off Okotoks in the opening round of the Western Canadian Baseball League playoffs each of the past three years.
Game 2 of the best of 3 series is tomorrow night in Edmonton. The Dawgs will start Justin Hammergren (4-4, 2.70 ERA) while the Prospects will go with their ace, Hunter Boyd (5-2, 2.43 ERA).
If a Game 3 is needed it will be back at Seaman Stadium on Saturday at 7 p.m.