By Lethbridge Herald on May 11, 2015.
The Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs won their fifth consecutive Canadian College Baseball Conference Championship title Sunday at Spitz Stadium.
The Dawgs beat the Vancouver Island Baseball InstituteÂ Mariners 5-3, wrapping up another CCBC championship and finishing the tournament undefeated thanks in large part to pitching and defence. The Dawgs allowed just nine runs in five games on the weekend, and their pitching was great again Sunday.
â€œWe got healthy. Two of the guys that threw in that game, Kelley and Hebert, theyâ€™ve been hurt just about since the beginning of the regular season and getting them back here at the end of the season, itâ€™s really helped us out,â€ said PBA coach Todd Hubka. â€œWe planned it for them to come in the way they did today, thatâ€™s exactly how we laid it out to be, that Hebert would come in and save in the ninth and he did it.â€
Pat Kelley started the game and went four innings for the win. He left with a 4-1 lead and the Dawgs stretched it to 5-1 as Ben Kennedy dealt on the mound. Kennedy stayed in the game until the ninth, when Luc Hebert toed the rubber with the bases loaded and no outs.
It was 5-2 at that point.
Kelley and Hebert spent the CCBC regular season watching their teammates go 20-8 and win the season title. Kelley missed a month after a back injury while Hebert pitched just four innings all year. Kelley struck out three batters, walked none and allowed just one earned run in his four innings. The Bulls pitchers didnâ€™t walk a runner, hit a batter or uncork a wild pitch in the game. The Marinersâ€™ staff walked six, hit one and had one wild pitch.
â€œI knew the staff this year was a strength of our team and to come out and to give up just a few runs all weekend, it gives the offence a chance to relax a bit,â€ said Kelley.
The offence had a roller-coaster season but came through in the championship tournament. They piled up 13 hits on Sunday.
â€œIt keeps the momentum going, keeps us on our feet,â€ said catcher Josh Wray. â€œIt was awesome.â€
Wray would know a thing or two about awesome performances. He hit .500 in the tournament, including six runs batted in and a 3-for-4 championship game that included two RBIs and a double.
â€œBeing at home with a home crowd, we knew how to stay loose,â€ said Wray. â€œThe crowd was great, guys played really well and it felt great.â€
Tanner Banks, who was 3-for-5 in the title match, was .429 over the five games and added six runs. He and Wray each stole two bases.
The Dawgs three-run third inning was important as Kennedy settled in with a 5-1 lead until the bottom of the eighth. He got into a jam after Greg Brady scored, struggling to stay ahead in counts. But he took some velocity off a fastball and followed that strike up with a hard slider that fanned VIBIâ€™s Gobind Sall to get out of the inning.
Coaldaleâ€™s Austin Gurr pitched an inning and two-thirds in relief for the Mariners, allowing no runs.
The Mariners loaded the bases with some soft hits that found holes in the infield when Hebert took the mound for his fourth inning of the season. His second pitch induced a double play, scoring Connor Merilees to make it 5-3 and then Tyler Ulrich popped one up to Dawgsâ€™ first baseman Cory Scammell and it was time to celebrate.
â€œI had faith in my teammates, I knew theyâ€™d get it,â€ said Hebert of the final out. â€œI sort of saw it come off soft and I knew we could make a play.â€
The PBA is the leagueâ€™s only two-year program, as its players head south to attend college in the U.S. after their sophomore year. Players must attend either the University of Lethbridge or Lethbridge College and they move on after two years.
Hubka said this yearâ€™s group has hit its academic goals, and it stood out.
â€œThis is probably the most, in five years, the most intelligent bunch Iâ€™ve had,â€ he said.
â€œAcademically, which is why theyâ€™re here, theyâ€™re very good in the classroom. Thats why they come here, to go to school and we have a couple of 4.0 students at the university and at the college. … Iâ€™m just as proud of that as these championships.â€