By Dale Woodard on July 22, 2021.
In what should be a tight second half race for top spot, the Okotoks Dawgs Black will nudge ahead for now.
The Dawgs Black doubled up the Lethbridge Bulls 8-4 in Western Canadian Baseball League play Wednesday night at Spitz Stadium.
Heading into the second half of the season with both teams eyeing up the top rung in the WCBL, the Dawgs enjoyed a five-run sixth inning and a couple two-out rallies to post the win that improves them to 12-9, half a game up on the idle Edmonton Prospects (11-9) and one-and-a-half games ahead of the 11-11 Bulls.
Bulls starter Max Benton went five and two-thirds innings, surrendering seven runs on 10 hits, walking two and striking out two in taking the loss, while Dawgs Black starter Quinn Tocheniuk earned the win in six and one-thirds-innings, giving up three runs on five hits, walking three and striking out three.
On the plus side for the Bulls, who tacked on one run in the bottom of the ninth, reliever Kyle Bloor made his season debut, tossing the last three and one-thirds innings, giving up one run on one hit and striking out four to give Lethbridge’s bullpen some much-needed relief.
“Benton gave us a chance,” said Bulls head coach Chance Wheatley. “He didn’t have his A stuff, but he was battling and then Kyle came in and was good as well.”
The Dawgs kicked the evening off with a two-out rally in the first as Alejandro Cazorla drew a walk and scored on a double from Ty Doucette. Doucette then scored on a Max Hartman single to centre field.
The Bull cut that lead in half in the bottom of the first when shortstop Mike Fitzsimmons doubled to lead off and scored on a Noah Or sacrifice fly to right field.
After the Dawgs Black went up 3-1 in the third, the visitors seized control in the fifth inning.
With runners on first and second with two out, Hank Griffin singled to score Hartman for a 4-1 lead.
Ben Hoshizaki singled to load the bases, ending Benton’s night as Bloor came on in relief.
The Bulls were unable to get out of the jam as Kaden Zarowny singled to right field to score Dryden Howse and Griffin before an error charge to Fitzsimmons off the bat of Cazorla plated Hoshizaki and Zarowny to up the Dawgs Black’s lead to 8-1.
Lethbridge got two back in the seventh inning when Carlin Dick doubled to left field to score Fitzsimmons and Torrin Vaselenak and Dick added one more run in the ninth on an error to second, but Dawgs Black reliever Ryan Olchoway was able to close it out and preserve the win for the visitors.
“It was just a few bleeders and a few plays that weren’t made and that was the game,” said Wheatley.
On the plus side, Bloor pitched some crucial innings to give the other arms a rest.
“Kyle is a guy who has a really good arm and that was the first time we’ve seen him this year,” said Wheatley. “He ate up some innings for is, which is big. The bullpen is a little beat up right now, it was really good.”
The Bulls are back at Spitz Stadium tonight and tomorrow as the Dawgs Red (9-12) pay a visit.
Wheatley said his club will look to build on their late run support from Tuesday night.
“We’ll take that momentum into tomorrow and I’m sure our offence will do what they’ve done all year.”
Wheatley said the Bulls will have a bullpen session today ahead of tonight’s game to decide who will get the start against the Dawgs Red.
The loss aside, the Bulls bench boss noted it’s fun to be in a tight race.
“It’s awesome that every game means something coming down the stretch,” said Wheatley. “This is what you play for, really.”
The Dawgs Black outhit the Bulls 11-7. Okotoks was charged with three errors, while the Bulls had two.
Dick has the lone multi-hit game for the Bulls, batting 2-for-3 with one run scored and two RBI, giving him 15 this year. Or also had an RBI in Tuesday’s loss to up his total to 15.
For the Dawgs Black, Griffin hit 3-for-4 at the bottom of the order with one run scored and Zarowny was 2-for-5 with one run scored and two RBI, giving him 27 this season.
Hartman was 2-for-4 with one run scored and one RBI.
In the other game Tuesday, the Dawgs Red edged the Sylvan Lake Gulls 7-6 in Okotoks.
Follow @@DWoodardHerald on Twitter