By Nick Kuhl on June 9, 2018.
A little early and late offence wasn’t quite enough give the Lethbridge Bulls a home-opening win.
Officially throwing open the doors on their newly renovated Spitz Stadium home in perfect summer night baseball weather, the Bulls were unable to cap the night off with a win, falling 6-4 to the Okotoks Dawgs during Western Major Baseball League play Friday night.
Batting first and second in the order, respectively, the tandem of Hank Forrest and Brett Mercier each clubbed two doubles and provided some first and last-inning offence for Lethbridge, but the Dawgs were able to chip away with some timely hits and runs of their own in the middle innings on their way to the win that drops the Bulls to 1-6 on the season.
Trailing 4-2 in the eighth with the bases loaded, Blake MacDonald sent a shot to centre field that looked like it might find some grass, but instead wound up as a sacrifice fly that scored Mercier to cut the lead to 4-3.
The Dawgs added two more in the ninth before Mercier hit for his second double of the game that scored Forrest, but that’s as close as the Bulls got as the team looks for their second win of the season in the rematch against the Dawgs tonight at 7 p.m.
“We’re just snake bitten right now, we can’t get that break,” said Bulls head coach Jesse Sawyer. “In the eighth inning, Blake came up and absolutely stung a ball right at the centre fielder. If that thing drops it’s a totally different ballgame. I just told the boys we have to stay positive, we have to stay up. It’s coming. Our breaks are going to come and they’re going to come in bunches. We just have to stick with the plan.”
The Bulls scored first on back-to-back doubles as Forrest led off with a double and Mercier followed suit with a shot that scored Forrest for a 1-0 lead.
Okotoks loaded the bases with none out in the fourth inning on consecutive hits from Eddie Sanchez, Collin Ridout and Nate Dechaine.
Bulls starter Jaden Griffin was able to induce a double play off William Hollis, but it scored Sanchez from third to tie it 1-1 after three-and-a-half innings.
Okotoks took their first lead of the night in the fifth when Cole Maclaren scored on a Danny Donnelly two-out double to left field for a 2-1 lead. The Dawgs added one more run on another double, this one from Sanchez that scored Donnelly for a 3-1 lead.
The Bulls got one back in the fifth as Forrest clubbed his second double of the night to the right field wall and scored from third on a two-out infield hit from Lachlan Mayo to cut the lead to 3-2.
Okotoks added another run when Dechaine singled to right that scored Sanchez and doubled Okotoks lead to 4-2.
Lethbridge got one back on MacDonald’s sac fly in the eighth to make it 4-3.
After the Dawgs doubled their lead in the ninth, Forrest and Mercier went back to work in the ninth as Forrest singled and then scored on Mercier’s second double of the game.
Forrest went 3-for-5 with with three runs scored, while Mercier was 2-for-4 with one run scored and one RBI.
“Tonight I was feeling a lot better,” said Forrest, who is batting .286, while Mercier is .464. “I feel like I’ve been seeing the ball a lot better. I’ve been struggling a little bit, but it’s just nice to see some fall. It fills the confidence.”
“He was a spark at the top of the order tonight,” added Sawyer of Forrest. “He got on base and that’s what we one of our leadoff guy. He’s got some speed and he swung the bat really well. Mercier as well in that two-hole. He’s been one of our top guys so far this year and he just keeps hitting. We have to keep that up and just hope we can get this thing turned around right away.”
Griffin took the loss, throwing seven innings, tossing 90 pitches and allowing three runs on five hits, walking three and striking out eight.
“I have nothing but good things to say,” said Sawyer of Griffin, a member of the Canadian National Junior team. “He’s a high school kid and he came out in front of a huge home crowd and he wasn’t scared of the moment. I’m proud of the kid, he came out and gave us everything he had and gave us a chance to win that ball game.”
The Bulls look for a split with the Dawgs tonight.
“That’s all we can really do, is keep swinging,” said Forrest. “We’re really close and we got a few more bones to drop tonight, but we’re still missing some timely hits. But it’s not like we’re not putting a good wood on the ball. We just have to keep our spirits high it will get there.”
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