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.
â€œIt was a rotten weekend because of this wind,â€ said PBA coach Todd Hubka. â€œIt made it tough for both teams, just having to be out when itâ€™s cold and miserable but what can you do? Itâ€™s southern Alberta.â€
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.
â€œYou know, Mattâ€™s just a hard-working kid. He shows up, he does his job and every day heâ€™s here heâ€™s working hard,â€ said Hubka. â€œIt 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.â€
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 wasnâ€™t happy with the defence his team played, wind or no wind.
â€œItâ€™s just errors they shouldnâ€™t make,â€ he said. â€œIt always seems to be against TRU. Our guys are the most talented team in the league, weâ€™re the hardest working team in the league but we get on the field against those guys and itâ€™s just dropped balls and bad mistakes and we wind up beating ourselves.
â€œI know theyâ€™ll figure it out. Theyâ€™re smart kids and like I said, they never shy away from putting the work in.â€
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 Sundayâ€™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. Itâ€™s the kind of performance expected from the six-foot-one lefty out of Spruce Grove.
â€œHe 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,â€ said Hubka.
Griederâ€™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 heâ€™s here, heâ€™s taking advice from all corners.
â€œCoach Coop (Austin Cooper) helped me fix some mechanical things,â€ said Grieder. â€œBut itâ€™s also the help Iâ€™ve gotten from my teammates, Ben Kennedy, Josh Wray, loads of help.
â€œThe guys have been great, Pat Kelley, everyone really. I just try to listen and try to learn what I can because thatâ€™s what itâ€™s about is getting better all the time.â€
Born in Calgary â€” he wasnâ€™t there long â€” and raised in Seattle before moving to Spruce Grove, Griederâ€™s control is easily fixed, said Hubka, it just takes time and repetition.
â€œToday, itâ€™s building for him. Heâ€™s a freshman, itâ€™s coming,â€ said Hubka. â€œWhen they rush and they collapse on the back side and the arm trails, the ball gets up on him.
â€œBut when he stays tall at the back and throws down heâ€™s very good. Heâ€™s got to realize how good he is that he doesnâ€™t have to nibble.â€
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 itâ€™s baseball with no distractions.
â€œThatâ€™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,â€ he said.
And as for that pesky Wolfpack, who have been bridesmaids to the top Dawgs for many years?
Theyâ€™re older, because they can keep guys for more years than we can,â€ said Hubka. â€œOur guys are two-year guys and weâ€™re always younger because of that. But thatâ€™s not an excuse because our guys are talented and theyâ€™re hard-working and one thing weâ€™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.â€