By IAN WILSON
The opening round of the 2022 Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) postseason is in the books, with all four best-of-three series ending in sweeps.
Only one upset took place – the fourth-seeded Medicine Hat Mavericks knocked off the first place Regina Red Sox in East Division play. The Moose Jaw Miller Express took care of the Swift Current 57’s in the other East Division series.
In the West, two teams making their first ever postseason appearances – the Brooks Bombers and Fort McMurray Giants – were eliminated by their top-seeded opponents. The Sylvan Lake Gulls won two tight games over the Giants, while the Okotoks Dawgs bombastic offence bounced the Bombers.
Here’s a look at what we can expect in both the East and West Division Finals.
The Dawgs were dominant in the regular season, setting a WCBL record for wins with a 43-13 record. The Gulls were second in the division and the league, with a 38-18 record.
Head-to-head, the two clubs met 10 times, with Okotoks claiming victory in eight of them. The Dawgs outscored the Gulls 60-25 in those matchups.
One hitter to watch on the Dawgs is middle infielder Ricardo Sanchez, who hit for the cycle against the Bombers and is scorching baseballs. Sanchez leads WCBL postseason batters with an .818 batting average, six runs batted in, seven runs, three doubles and a pair of triples.
Other Okotoks sluggers to keep an eye on include infielder Brendan Luther (.375 average, five runs, one stolen base); outfielder Micah McDowell (.364, five RBI, three runs); first baseman McCoy Pearce (.444, three runs, two RBI, one homer); and catcher Jacob Morrow (.400, three runs, three RBI).
Collectively, hitters with the Dawgs put up a league-best 28 runs, 33 hits, 53 total bases, .398 batting average and .480 on-base percentage.
On the mound, Okotoks pitchers posted more strikeouts than any other playoff team, with 25 over two games. They also recorded a 3.00 earned run average (ERA) while limiting Brooks batters to a .206 batting average. Righthander Bobby Vath was strong in Game 2 against the Bombers, going 6.2 innings with 8 Ks and two earned runs allowed in picking up the win.
The Dawgs will face a highly effective arsenal of arms when they play the Gulls. Sylvan Lake pitchers allowed only two earned runs in their series against the Giants. In addition, the Gulls only surrendered 10 hits while striking out 23 Fort McMurray batters.
Hill toppers who have excelled for the Gulls in the postseason include lefty starters Josh Tucker (one win, 11 Ks, 2.57 ERA in seven innings) and Ryun Cross (7 Ks, 6.2 innings, zero earned runs), as well as Calgarian Ty Boudreau (two saves, 4 Ks, 2.1 innings, zero earned runs).
Offensively, the Gulls have received timely hitting from catcher Ben Prediger (two RBI), infielder Michael Polson (two stolen bases, one run, one RBI), infielder Cleary Simpson (two runs, one double), and designated hitter Tyler McWillie (one home run).
The West Division Final schedule is as follows:
Game 1 at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks, Friday, Aug. 12th, 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 at Gulls Stadium in Sylvan Lake, Saturday, Aug. 13th, 7;05 p.m.
Game 3 at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks, Sunday, Aug. 14th, 7:05 p.m. (if necessary)
The Moose Jaw Miller Express narrowly missed out on top spot in the East with a 33-23 record, finishing just one game behind the Regina Red Sox. They were consistent throughout the regular season.
The Medicine Hat Mavericks (18-38), on the other hand, didn’t clinch a playoff spot until the second-last game of the season. That didn’t stop them from delivering an upset knockout to the Red Sox, however.
Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat squared off 11 times this summer, with the Miller Express coming out on top in nine of those games. The Miller Express racked up 90 runs in those meetings, while the Mavs managed to score 57 times.
On the bump, Moose Jaw posted a 2.50 ERA while registering 19 strikeouts in their games against Swift Current, while pitchers with the Mavericks recorded a 4.00 ERA and 13 Ks versus Regina. Medicine Hat hurlers walked just four batters and surrendered no homers so far in the playoffs.
Standout pitching performances for Moose Jaw came from starters Kellan Voggesser (one win, 10 Ks, 3.00 ERA in six innings) and Cameron Dunn (one win, 5.40 ERA), while reliever Reece Helland (one save, 4 Ks, three innings) has been great out of the bullpen.
The Mavericks got victories from Gerritt Erickson (4.15 ERA) and Zac Robinson (3.00 ERA). Mathew Krall (two Ks in two innings, zero earned runs) has a save, while Isaiah Bartels (2.25 ERA) has also put in four innings of stable work out of the arm barn.
Both offences are fairly evenly matched. Each team scored 14 runs in their postseason two games. The Miller Express have the edge in total bases (27), batting average (.303) and hits (20), but the Mavs drew more walks (13). Medicine Hat is also a handful on the base paths – they swiped five bags in their opening series against the Red Sox.
Hitters on the Mavericks to keep tabs on include outfielder Braden DeSonia (two stolen bases, two runs), third baseman Ranciel Ventura (three runs, one stolen base), and outfielder Christian Rush (.333 average, three RBI, two runs, one stolen base).
On Moose Jaw, pay attention when shortstop Zach Campbell (.500 average, four runs, one stolen base), first baseman Cam Grant (.333, one homer, three RBI), and outfielder Nate Mensik (three runs, one RBI) step into the batter’s box.
The East Division Final schedule is as follows:
Game 1 at Ross Wells Park in Moose Jaw, Friday, Aug. 12th, 7:05 p.m.
Game 2 at Athletic Park in Medicine Hat, Saturday, Aug. 13th, 7:05 p.m.
Game 3 at Ross Wells Park in Moose Jaw, Sunday, Aug. 14th (if necessary)
The WCBL championship final dates are set for Aug. 16-18 and the winning team will be awarded the Harry Hallis Memorial Trophy.