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Wednesday August 15, 2012
By: Remy Greer
The Okotoks Bantam Black Dawgs found the ideal way to christen their new digs.
Just one month after their first game at the new Bantam field in Okotoks, the Black Dawgs won their third consecutive provincial championship after dispatching the Spruce Grove Sox 11-1 in the tournament final on Aug. 6.
The result was familiar for the Dawgs Academy, but it was very much a new core of players who won the Alberta title for the third time in a row.
Bantam Black infielder Austin Ely was the only Dawg on last year’s provincial championship winning roster under head coach Allen Cox, who moved up to coach the 2011 group as they formed the Dawgs Midget White team.
“It’s a whole new crew so it’s a kudos to the program,” said Dawgs head coach Dave Robb of the 2012 title. “You’re talking about a development program going to nationals with a different group of kids.
“We haven’t had anybody that’s kind of repeated.”
Dawgs catcher Devon Sabatier was on the other side of the battery when he was the starting pitcher for the provincial final for Okotoks and delivered under the pressure. The 15-year-old hurler held the Sox to just one run over six and a third innings before Matt Barry got called in to record the final two outs.
“I didn’t get him out of there because his pitch count was high,” said Robb. “I got him out of there just so he could get that applause because that’s kind of a cool thing to walk off the mound with the people going nuts.”
Robb said Sabatier worked in his curveball effectively after the second inning and was dominant for the remainder of the game on the bump.
“He would throw his curveball for a strike and that just made his fastball that much better,” Robb said. “His fastball is mid-70s and on a mound like this that probably simulates 85 miles per hour.”
It was the Dawgs’ aggressiveness at the plate that led to their success all weekend, said Robb.
“That’s our game,” Robb said. “We’ve talked about it from day one, you’ve got to swing it hard to hit it hard.”
The Dawgs’ power was never more evident than in the final as they hit three home runs on the Spruce Grove pitching staff, including late solo shots from Nicholas Cardinal and Ryley Overacker in the sixth inning and a three-run bomb to straightaway centre from Brendan Dranchuk to kick-start the offence in the bottom of the first.
“It was actually a curveball and I was just swinging for contact because I knew I was two (pitches) out in front,” Dranchuk said of his three-run shot. “Then I saw the centre fielder stopping so I thought he was going to catch it and he stopped at the fence.”
The athletic first baseman would add three more RBIs, on a fielder’s choice, and a two-run single to finish the game with six runs-batted in and a pair of stolen bases.
In his second season with the Dawgs Academy, the 15-year-old Dranchuk said he knows the significance of the winning history he’s now a big part of in Okotoks.
“I know this organization has won the past three years,” said Dranchuk, who will be attending Holy Trinity Academy starting next month. “It feels good to do it at home with the new field.”
The Dawgs repeat bid got off to a rocky start.
They lost their tournament opener 17-12 to St. Albert, recovered for an 11-4 win over the Dawgs Bantam Red team, a 10-0 thrashing over Fort McMurray and a 10-8 win over Spruce Grove in round-robin play.
Okotoks and St. Albert met again in the tie-breaker for a spot in the final and Cardinal pitched a complete game shutout en route to the 10-0 victory for Okotoks.
Dawg Peter Hutzal was named the tournament MVP as a result of his offensive performance through the four days of the provincials including five homeruns.
The provincial victory books Okotoks its ticket to the Bantam nationals in Vaughan, ON Aug. 23-27.
“I’m enjoying this for now,” Dranchuk said. “But within the next couple days we’ve got to get out mindset on bringing a national championship to this academy.”