A dominant pitching performance has vaulted the Okotoks Dawgs back in the Western final.
Tanner Simpson pitched a complete game shutout with 11 strikeouts as the Dawgs blanked Edmonton 5-0 in Game 3 of the opening round set to take the best-of-three Western semifinal series 2-1 and avenge three straight first-round playoff exits at the hands of the Prospects.
"It was one of those nights where my rhythm felt good, my body felt good. It possibly could have been our last game of the season so I knew I had to go out there do my best and give our team a chance," said Simpson, a Lewis and Clark State senior. "There's a lot of pressure on it, but I've played a lot of baseball and I know how to handle the pressure. I had no problem with it, just another game."
Simpson, a hard-throwing righty, set the early tone locating his fastball, putting the Prospects down in order in the first inning and striking out the side in the second. He allowed just six hits over nine innings along with one walk.
"My fastball was working best out of everything. I was putting it where I wanted it and getting ahead of people," Simpson said. "This was pretty big. I finished college baseball this year so this might have been my last pitching performance ever so it feels really good to go out there and get a complete game."
Okotoks got on the sticks early to back up its starter.
Ricardo Sanchez drove in Dane Tofteland on a fielder's choice in the second inning while Jacob Melton doubled the lead in the third on a sacrifice fly.
The Dawgs broke the game open with a three-run sixth inning with Gavin Logan, Will Hollis and Tristan Peters providing key RBI knocks.
"Our hitters did well too, we had 10 hits, five runs. We've hit the ball hard against Edmonton the whole time they just didn't drop for us in the beginning," said Peters.
Edmonton forced Game 3 with a dramatic walk-off 5-4 victory on Friday night in the capital city. The Dawgs had a 4-2 lead entering the bottom of the tenth before the Prospects kept their season alive down to their last out.
There would be no repeat late inning surge in the series clincher.
"I think most of us got over it as soon as we got on the bus," Peters said. "We realized we fought hard, there's nothing else we could have done. Sure we wanted the off-day, but we came out competed again and that was our mindset for today, just back at it again.
"The energy was high today, especially because we've played Edmonton the past four years and hadn't beat them out in the first-round once. We were all hyped up for that and really wanted to end that curse."
That noise you heard Saturday night was the Dawgs lifting a massive weight off their shoulders. The Prospects have been specialists as underdogs, knocking off Okotoks over the past three playoffs in the opening round.
"I think everyone is more relaxed now for the next series," Peters said.
The Dawgs will play the second seed Lethbridge Bulls, who got past the Medicine Hat Mavericks in three games, in the Western Final.
Game 1 of the best-of-three is Sunday night at Seaman Stadium at 7:05 p.m.
For more information go to dawgsbaseball.ca