By Lethbridge Herald on April 13, 2015.
Wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour blew away any chance of the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs enjoying their home-opening weekend.
The blustery conditions resulted in a circus every time a ball popped up off a bat and eroded the patience of almost everyone who stopped in to catch the PBA Dawgs continue their Canadian College Baseball Conference season at Lloyd Nolan Yard.
The Dawgs split a pair of games on Saturday but won both on Sunday, getting past the Thompson River University Wolfpack 9-6 early in the day then beating the Calgary Dinos 9-3 in the late afternoon.
“It was a rotten weekend because of this wind,” said PBA coach Todd Hubka. “It made it tough for both teams, just having to be out when it’s cold and miserable but what can you do? It’s southern Alberta.”
The early win Sunday saw Lethbridge product Matt Malec belt a pair of doubles and score two RBIs and two runs in a 2-for-3 effort. He also smacked a double pinch-hitting in the second game.
“You know, Matt’s just a hard-working kid. He shows up, he does his job and every day he’s here he’s working hard,” said Hubka. “It was good to see some of that work pay off for him today. In fact, for a lot of our guys, they got some nice hits this weekend. Guys who deserved it by putting in the work got some results so I was happy to see that.”
Logan McDonald got the pitching win in relief against the Wolfpack. He pitched three and a third innings and gave up six hits but a pair of four-run innings helped his cause. Dylan Theroux got the first of his two saves on the day by closing the game out.
Overall, Hubka said he wasn’t happy with the defence his team played, wind or no wind.
“It’s just errors they shouldn’t make,” he said. “It always seems to be against TRU. Our guys are the most talented team in the league, we’re the hardest working team in the league but we get on the field against those guys and it’s just dropped balls and bad mistakes and we wind up beating ourselves.
“I know they’ll figure it out. They’re smart kids and like I said, they never shy away from putting the work in.”
Hubka pointed out that after a four-game weekend in the grinding wind, his team would be back at The Yard today, lifting weights and cleaning up.
Andrew Grieder handled the heavy lifting in Sunday’s second game, going seven innings on the mound and allowing just four hits, one earned run and striking out five. He walked two batters and plunked a pair. It’s the kind of performance expected from the six-foot-one lefty out of Spruce Grove.
“He struggled last weekend, ball got high on him and control was a big issue but we worked on some mechanical things with him and I think you got a pretty good look at what he can do today,” said Hubka.
Grieder’s a definite MLB draft prospect, although he said his focus is on learning, whether from his coaches or his teammates. He said the coaches drew him to the PBA and now that he’s here, he’s taking advice from all corners.
“Coach Coop (Austin Cooper) helped me fix some mechanical things,” said Grieder. “But it’s also the help I’ve gotten from my teammates, Ben Kennedy, Josh Wray, loads of help.
“The guys have been great, Pat Kelley, everyone really. I just try to listen and try to learn what I can because that’s what it’s about is getting better all the time.”
Born in Calgary — he wasn’t there long — and raised in Seattle before moving to Spruce Grove, Grieder’s control is easily fixed, said Hubka, it just takes time and repetition.
“Today, it’s building for him. He’s a freshman, it’s coming,” said Hubka. “When they rush and they collapse on the back side and the arm trails, the ball gets up on him.
“But when he stays tall at the back and throws down he’s very good. He’s got to realize how good he is that he doesn’t have to nibble.”
As for the four-time defending CCBC champs, Hubka said his team will figure it out. The players, who attend Lethbridge College and the University of Lethbridge, will be done school soon and that means it’s baseball with no distractions.
“That’s always part of it, we want guys who take school seriously and that often means that we see the real growth come once school is out for the year,” he said.
And as for that pesky Wolfpack, who have been bridesmaids to the top Dawgs for many years?
They’re older, because they can keep guys for more years than we can,” said Hubka. “Our guys are two-year guys and we’re always younger because of that. But that’s not an excuse because our guys are talented and they’re hard-working and one thing we’ve found and I think the results show it is that the talented, hardest-working team usually ends up figuring it out and winning in the end.”
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