Prospects Rebound For Split of Twin-Bill
By John Short

Whatever the sport, proven leaders know in painful detail what can happen when schedules change on short notice. One who had ample experience in such difficult circumstances, and spoke about it often, was Jack Donahue, who ran Canada’s national men’s basketball program to World University Games and considerable Olympic experience decades ago.

“Don’t take days off when you’re going good and don’t avoid days off when you’re team is struggling,” was an ongoing mantra.

The Edmonton Prospects learned the same difficult lesson this week.

Riding a hot streak and comfortable both at bat and in the field, Edmonton’s Western Canadian Baseball League team faced a scheduled two-day respite last week – okay.

But the layoff was followed by two days of rain at RE/MAX Field and one at Lethbridge, home of the capable Bulls. Not okay.

The immediate result was a pair of narrow losses at Lethbridge – eerily-similar 2-1 setbacks on Friday night and in the opening seven-inning game of a doubleheader on Sunday. Fortunately, things improved in the nightcap when the Prospects continued their drive toward a playoff spot by handling Lethbridge 7-1.

Reliable southpaw Taran Oulton took the loss in the opener when Dylan Borman delivered a lead-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning. His long ball erased a 1-1 tie that developed on a single and stolen base by Edmonton’s Eric Crain in the top of the seventh. His attempted theft led to a throwing error for catcher Roger Riley and Crain continued around the bases to create the threat of extra innings that disappeared on Borman’s blast.

Back-to-back errors by Javier Ramirez and centre fielder Tanner Roundy allowed Lethbridge to go ahead in the top half of the first inning.

Lethbridge managed only three hits off Oulton.

Six bases on balls and a two-run homer in the second inning by Pierce Blohowiak were the keys to Edmonton’s success in the second game. Tyler Maskill scored in front of the speedy Blohowiak as Edmonton took a 3-0 lead off starter Chase Florendine before Kyle Poapst came on to relieve him. A sacrifice fly by Jake Gehri was part of the four-run second inning. Ramirez scored two of Edmonton’s seven runs and Crain earned the other run-batted-in in the second inning.

Beaux Guilbeau scored an unearned Edmonton run in the fourth inning and Zach Thomas tallied the final run in the seventh when he earned a walk and later came across on a passed ball.

Borman’s sacrifice fly against winning pitcher Trever Berg in the first inning provided the only Lethbridge run. He was excellent for six innings and David Wylie was perfect in one inning of relief.

 

A Close Call by John Short

The Lethbridge Bulls collected four singles in the home half of the ninth inning Friday night – and needed all of them to edge the Edmonton Prospects 2-1 in a Western Canadian Baseball League pitching duel before about 1,400 fans.

Catcher Roger Riley, the first hitter faced by reliever Brandon Owens, slapped the decisive blow into left field to score speedy pinch-runner Nick Ankermann with two out, pinning the loss on starter Hunter Boyd who went 8 2/3 impresssive innings before head coach Jordan Blundell removed him. Ankermann stepped in after for Ashton Roy who singled with two out, went to second on a single by Dylan Borman and a slapper to left by Grant Kerry before Riley’s late heroics.

The other Bulls run was a homer by Kaleb Warden in the sixth inning. He entered the game with a lofty .406 batting average and it was his only eight of eight yielded by the reliable Boyd.

Warden’s circuit clout also came with two out and matched Edmonton’s run in the top of the sixth, when Jake Gehri doubled and scored on a single by Javier Ramirez.

Lethbridge starter Logan Bexten matched Boyd almost pitch-for-pitch during his seven innings before Chase Florendine came on in the seventh inning. Both of the mound beginners kept pitches to a minimum, with Boyd fanning four and Lethbridge collecting nine strikeouts against the Prospects, three of them against first baseman Nolan Walker.

The hot-hitting Ramirez had three hits and Gehri two to lead Edmonton offensively. The loss left Edmonton narrowly behind fourth-place Fort McMurray in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot. With the victory, Lethbridge remained the closest challenger to first place Okotoks.

After being rained out of two scheduled games this week with the Brooks Bombers, the Prospects have not yet announced the makeup dates.

Hot Hitting Continues For Prospects
By John Short

Shortstop Javier Ramirez and outfielder Pierce Blohowiak shone at the plate Sunday as the Edmonton Prospects extended their Western Canadian Baseball League winning streak to five games with a 10-2 victory over the Melville Millionaires.

More than 2,000 fans in comfortable weather at RE/MAX Field watched Ramirez collect two doubles and a triple in his four-hit performance. Blohowiak, emerging from a recent batting slump, had a couple of extra-base hits and drove in a team-leading three runs.

As usual lately, the Prospects built an early lead, sat comfortably for a few innings behind solid pitching, then erupted for big rallies in the dying innings. In three consecutive wins over the Millionaires, Edmonton struck for 28 runs while surrendering only six. A two-day break in the schedule leaves the Brooks Bombers as the opposition Wednesday and Thursday night.

Melville’s only scoring took place in the sixth. An infield error and a passed ball allowed Tanner Solomon and Marquis Irving to score unearned runs. One was charged to starter Austin Herrington and the other to Brendan Owens, one of five relievers who limited Melville to one walk while fanning five.

A costly throwing error put Edmonton on the board in the second inning. Nolan Walker’s base on balls was followed by a Ramirez infield grounder that might have become a double play. Instead a bad throw enabled both runners to score.

What ultimately stood up as the winning run occurred in the fifth. Davis Pratt walked, moved up on Travis Hunt’s base hit and scored on another infield error.

Edmonton’s narrow 3-2 edge grew immediately when Ramirez slashed a triple to the left field corner and trotted home on Jake McDonald’s single. Blohowiak then rapped another triple, scoring McDonald, and came home on a sacrifice fly by lead-off hitter Zach Thomas.

With their offence in high gear, the Prospects scored seemingly at will the rest of the way.

Top defensive plays drew plenty of attention on both sides. Once again, Hunt’s rifle arm led to a double play after his brilliant catch of a long fly in right field. A Melville runner attempting to return to first had no chance to survive. One inning later, a routine grounder to right field appeared to be a single but Hunt was perfectly positioned and nailed the hitter before he could reach first base.

Prospects Keep Climbing
By John Short

Their fourth consecutive win boosted the once-slumping Edmonton Prospects Saturday to within one game of second place in the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Western Division.

Solid pitching by lefty Taran Oulton and a balanced hitting attack carried Edmonton to an 8-3 victory over the Melville Millionaires with more than 2,100 fans enjoying the performance at RE/MAX Field.

Oulton shackled the Millionaires until the seventh inning when they scored all three of their runs – two on a ringing double by Mike Ozga. The clever southpaw yielded five of his 10 hits in that frame, which ended on third baseman Davis Pratt’s diving stop of a ball headed to left field with two out.

In keeping with their recent batting upgrade, the Prospects scored twice in the opening inning on long back-to-back sacrifice flies by Nolan Walker and Jake Gehri. The margin was padded in the second when Pierce Blohowiak sped home from first on a Tanner Roundy double, one of Roundy’s three hits and three runs batted in.

From then until the sixth inning, Oulton and rival starter Chris Lacher kept both offences buttoned down. The change began on a walk to Walker and was followed by Gehri’s single and a two-run Javier Ramirez double. Doubles by Blohowiak and Roundy following a walk to Ramirez completed the Prospects scoring.

Thanks at least in part to excellent baseball weather, both teams flashed impressive defence. Pratt was particularly sharp but teammates provided plenty of help. After yielding one of his two walks, Oulton picked off Dalton Horner in the sixth inning. In the troublesome seventh, Gehri’s rocket throw to second picked off Braeden Dobbs, who finished with three hits.

Melville centre fielder Marquis Irvine provided the most spectacular play of the night. With his back to the wall and close to the fence which is more than 400 feet from home plate, the Detroit product dived headlong for a catch that deprived Walker of a certain triple.

The Prospects introduced another new outfielder, Wetaskiwin product Matt Coutney, but lost starting second-sacker Brendan Luther for at least a short while. After his lead-off bunt single in the first inning, he stepped awkwardly on the bag at first to avoid an attempted pick-off play. Katsu Takahashi came in as a pinch runner  for him.

 

Things Are Looking Up
By John Short

Jake Gehri and Javier Ramirez combined for six hits and five runs-batted-in Friday night to pace the Edmonton Prospects to a 10-1 victory over the Melville Millionaires. Gehri’s three hits included a triple and a double while Ramirez included a two-base hit among his total.

In boosting their winning streak to three in a row, the Prospects scored early and late – four runs off losing pitcher Tyler Price in the first inning and three in the late innings against an array of relievers. Continuing to fight back from a recent six-game skid, Edmonton played one of its few home games this season in excellent conditions. More than 2,400 fans celebrated almost every offensive move in the one-sided result at RE/MAX Field.

The only Melville tally came against winning pitcher Trever Berg, whose tidy seven-inning start left room for Scott Gillespie and Zach Harrington to mop up with one shutout inning apiece.

Infielders Brendan Luther and Davis Pratt got the Prospects off to a quick start with a pair of lead-off singles and both came around to score on well-stroked singles by Gehri and Ramirez. Travis Hunt, who reached on a two-base throwing error, also crossed the plate.

Gehri’s run-scoring double came immediately after a Nolan Walker two-bagger in the third inning. Left fielder Zach Thomas, playing his first Western Canadian Baseball League game, earned an RBI with a single to score Gehri. Late in the game, Thomas distinguished himself with a terrific throw from left field to down a Melville player trying to stretch a single into a double.

Hunt, Walker and Ramirez all singled in the three-run seventh inning, in which Gehri, the Prospects starting catcher, added a key base on balls. The final Edmonton tally was registered by Pratt when Gehri rifled a triple deep to right field with two out in the eighth.