Depth at the plate and dominance on the mound is a pretty good recipe for a provincial championship.
The Okotoks Dawgs Academy 15U Black pitched an undefeated record en route to capturing the Baseball Alberta AAA Provincial Championship Sunday at Conrad Field on Sunday.
"One through nine, one through seventeen, we have confidence whoever we put in there is going to come through," said Dawgs 15U Black coach Lou Pote. "That's the key to success and that's the way it has been all year."
Okotoks got on the sticks early and often in the tournament final, a commanding 12-3 victory over the Red Deer Braves.
Catcher Russell Mattson doubled in a run in the top of the first. In the second, shortstop Deri Steiert-Couture drove in Connor Makarus on a fielder's choice before the Dawgs delivered the first of three big flies.
Outfielder Max Hartman sat on a fastball and crushed a three-run dinger over the right field porch to make it a 5-0 game.
"I just saw a first pitch fastball right down the middle," Hartman said. "And I put my swing on it and out.
"(The lead) gave us confidence, but we made sure we didn't let up or take our foot off the gas. We kept going, kept pushing."
Starter Jose Nunez pitched four innings, holding the Braves off the board until Braves clean-up hitter Heath Hachkowski hit a solo home-run to right centre in the bottom of the fourth. Red Deer added another run on a fielder's choice to cut the deficit to 7-2.
"(Jose) was getting ahead and they were quality strikes, too, they were down in the zone," Pote said. "If they did swing at it, it was going to be a tough pitch to do something with. He worked ahead, used his breaking-ball in fastball counts.
"He's been one of our dudes all year. We believe in every guy we've got and they just step up."
Karter Andersen came on in relief to record the final nine outs, holding the Braves to just one run over three innings.
Okotoks added two runs in the third inning on a Lucas Shannon fielder's choice and RBI knock from Hartman. The Dawgs tacked on three more in the fifth inning with pinch-hitter Cole Carroll providing a clutch two-RBI single with two outs and the bases loaded.
Lefties Luke Malone and Conor Pote put an exclamation point on the result with solo home runs in the top of the seventh.
"It's just clutch hitting," Hartman said. "We did what we did all year and it came through."
In pool play, Okotoks clipped the Calgary Jr. Dinos 8-3, dispatched the Parkland Twins 12-4 and chased the Camrose Cougars by a 12-1 count to lock-up the top seed in Pool B.
"Our pitchers were good all weekend - dominant every game," Hartman said. "This means a lot, it's just a great group of guys and just an all around great season."
The Dawgs punched their ticket to the championship with a dramatic surge to edge the St. Albert Cardinals 7-2 in the semifinal earlier on Sunday.
Down by two runs entering the sixth, the Dawgs rallied for a seven-run sixth inning as the bats came alive at the right time.
"We started hitting the ball - that was really it," said Mattson, named the tournament MVP. "We started taking good pitches, not swinging at them, just waited for strikes and swung at those.
"Then we came in feeling like we would absolutely roll (Red Deer) and that's what we did."
The Dawgs populated three of eight teams at the championships.
Both Okotoks 15U Red and Okotoks 14U were in Pool A alongside Red Deer and St. Albert.
Dawgs Red fell 5-2 to Red Deer, 7-0 to St. Albert and edged the Dawgs 14U 21-16 in a barn-burner. Dawgs 14U earlier lost 4-3 to St. Albert and 11-0 to Red Deer.
Following an extended layoff, the Dawgs 15U Black head to Ontario for the Baseball Canada 15U AAA Championships, known as the Ray Carter Cup, from Aug. 22-25 in Oshawa.
"We need defence to stay strong and same with our pitching," Mattson said. "That's been there all year, but we've got to keep it there."
For more information go to dawgsacademy.ca