Okotoks Dawgs gear up for WCBL playoff liftoff against Brooks Bombers

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The Okotoks Dawgs are hoping to put an exclamation point at the end of their Western Canada Baseball League season with their fifth championship.

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The way they punctuated the regular season with a bombshell Saturday 20-7(!) from the Brooks Bombers – also their first-round competition in the first round of the playoffs – the phrase “WCBL kings” is something they can surely speak loud and proud in the weeks to come.

“As a unit, this team will be incredibly tough to beat,” Okotoks Dawgs Academy head coach Jeff Duda said. “This team has that kind of brother-in-arms mentality. From the coaching staff to each individual player, these guys will go to war and fight for each other until the very last out.

The campaign to win a championship begins Monday night with Game 1 of the WCBL Best-of-Three Quarterfinal Series against the incoming Bombers at Seaman Stadium (7:05 p.m.).

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Game 2 of the Western Division 1-on-4 game is Tuesday at Brooks (7:05 p.m.) and Game 3 – if necessary – is scheduled for Wednesday at Okotoks (7:05 p.m.).

The visitors bring a sub-0.500 26-30 record to the series, while the Dawgs – the league’s top club in the regular season – post a splendid 43-13 record in the 11-team loop.

“Coach (Mitch) Schmidt and the rest of his team have done an amazing job mixing the guys up in the lineup,” Duda said. “The versatility and depth of the roster allows our coaching staff to move players around, making sure everyone gets their reps while keeping players healthy and fresh.

“That should pay dividends heading into the playoffs.”

Saturday’s regular season finale certainly seemed to see the Dawgs firing on all cylinders.

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The offense exploded in the final innings of the game, as they scored a combined 11 runs in the eighth and ninth innings.

Dawgs infielder Brendan Luther, of Mississauga, Ont., finished the regular season with a .357 batting average — third-best in the WCBL.

Teammates Noah Geekie, a pitcher/outfielder from Winnipeg, and Mark Pearce, a first baseman from Kamloops BC, weren’t far behind with averages of .351 and .349 respectively. Then came fellow Dawgs Ricardo Sanchez, a shortstop from Mexico City, and Alejandro Cazorla, an outfielder from Calgary, with scores of .342 and .341.

Pearce has eight home runs to be among the league leaders, and his 45 RBIs were second only to Nate Bach of the Regina Red Sox.

Dawgs outfielder Tucker Zdunich, of High River, Alta., had 44 RBIs.

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The club hopes it will all add up to another title after winning the last one in 2019. The Dawgs were also crowned champions in 2009, 2008 and 2007, and the Calgary Dawgs won the championship in 2004.

“Basically, top to bottom, this team is playing the game the right way,” added Duda. “And again, the versatility and depth is unmatched in the entire league. Another major factor in being a championship contender that is often overlooked is team chemistry. The roster has a strong presence at Dawgs Academy, so there’s a lot of pride and experience playing with each other. Plus, the other additions to the roster from across North America blended in seamlessly and became Dawgs through and through.

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DAWGS vs. BOMBERS

Best-of-3 auarter-final

Monday — @ Okotoks, 7:05 p.m.

Tuesday — @ Brooks, 7:05 p.m.

*Wednesday — @ Okotoks, 7:05 p.m.

* if necessary

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