By IAN WILSON
There is no better place to be than at a ballpark on Canada Day!
And few teams, if any, put on a better July 1st show than the Okotoks Dawgs at Seaman Stadium. The Dawgs are currently averaging over 4,200 fans per game – including a record-breaking Father’s Day attendance of 5,237 spectators – and they recently welcomed their one millionth fan in franchise history.
This year, the Dawgs welcome one of their rivals – the Edmonton Prospects – to take part in the Canada Day festivities, which of course include post-game fireworks.
As for the in-game pyrotechnics, Okotoks has plenty of explosiveness on their roster. The Dawgs are in first place in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) with a 21-6 record that includes a 7-3 stretch over their last 10 games.
The Prospects sit nine games back of Okotoks in the West Division standings and they are looking to boost their 11-14 record over the .500 mark on the year.
Hitters on Okotoks have produced more runs (194) than any other WCBL squad and they’re averaging more than seven runs scored per contest. Collectively, batters on the Dawgs lead the circuit in hits (282), doubles (65), runs batted in (157), total bases (395), stolen bases (56), and on-base percentage (.390).
The Prospects pitching staff can expect to have their hands full this weekend. In particular, moundsmen will want to keep an eye on infielder Brendan Luther (.404 batting average, 28 runs, 19 RBI, eight stolen bases). The Ontario native should be somewhat familiar to Edmonton after playing more than 60 games with the Prospects between 2019 and 2021. Another former Prospect, heavy-hitting first baseman McCoy Pearce, could also present a challenge to his previous teammates. Pearce is batting .371 with 24 RBI, 10 doubles and 16 runs.
On the base paths, watch for Alejandro Cazorla to be a menace. The outfielder leads the team in stolen bases (11) and is also batting .359 with 25 runs and 23 RBI. Recent roster addition Micah McDowell, out of Oregon State University, has eight swiped bags and a .467 batting average through six games.
As formidable of a batting lineup as the Dawgs present, their arms can also be hard to beat. Sherwood Park’s Graham Brunner is having a phenomenal campaign. The lefty is a perfect 5-0 with a miniscule 0.35 earned run average (ERA) in 26 innings for Okotoks. He’s also collected 24 strikeouts along the way. Righthander Julian Tymochko, another import from last year’s Prospects club, is also lights out in 2022: the Ontario pitcher has a 4-1 record, 0.79 ERA and 21 Ks in 22.2 innings.
Out of the bullpen, Ryan McFarland and Seth Thompson both have a pair of saves, while Bode Brooks and Cade Hermann have also closed out games for the Dawgs.
As a group, the Dawgs have the best ERA in the league (2.58) and they rank third in strikeouts (205).
In the visiting dugout, the Prospects have a lighter-hitting team that has posted mediocre results as a group. Their .235 batting average and .340 on-base percentage are second-worst in the WCBL, but when they do get aboard they are a threat to steal. The 51 stolen bases registered by the Prospects are second only to Okotoks.
On the bump, Edmonton’s hurlers are fifth in Ks (187), have given up the third-least base hits (210), have tossed the fewest wild pitches (20), and they have surrendered the least homers (8). Their collective ERA of 4.56 is good for fourth in the WCBL.
Individual standouts at the plate include outfielder Stephen MacKenzie, who leads the Prospects in RBI (20) and doubles (8), while putting in 15 runs and four round trippers. Caleb Feuerstake is the team’s best hitter. The outfielder is batting .355 through 20 games. He also has 14 runs and six stolen bases. Ommar Jackson is tops on Edmonton in stolen bases, with 10, while Aki Buckson has eight pillow thefts.
Hill toppers to watch for on the Prospects include Wyatt Anderson – who leads the team in punch outs, with 29 Ks in 23.1 innings – and Japanese righty Wataru Murakami (3-1, 2.61 ERA, 27 Ks in 31 frames). British Columbian Jordan Moffat has a 2.92 ERA, 20 strikeouts, a save and a 1-2 record in 27.2 innings.
AROUND THE HORN
Canada Day events around the WCBL include a full slate of baseball action.
The Lethbridge Bulls are hosting a doubleheader when the Brooks Bombers travel to Spitz Stadium, and the Weyburn Beavers visit the Regina Red Sox at Currie Field for a matinee matchup before hitting the road for a night game against the Moose Jaw Miller Express at Ross Wells Park.
Meanwhile, the Swift Current 57’s take on the Medicine Hat Mavericks at Athletic Park and the Sylvan Lake Gulls head north to Legacy Dodge Stadium for a tilt against the Fort McMurray Giants. Both those games start at 7:05 p.m.