Tough, Cold Night For Prospects
By John Short

The Edmonton Prospects lost both a valuable Canadian pitcher and a rain-shortened Western Canadian Baseball League game at RE/MAX Field Wednesday night before about 1,000 fans.

Clearly, the major loss in the 8-2 defeat by the Medicine Hat Mavericks was right-hander Jesse Poniewozik of nearby Spruce Grove. He left the game in the fourth inning after a line drive by hard-hitting Austin Sojka hit him squarely on the right side of his head. Poniewozik staggered for two or three strides before falling to the turf, apparently unconscious. He stayed down for several minutes before regaining his feet and was escorted to the Prospects dugout by a couple of mates.

He was examined by medical personnel immediately after the frightening incident but no information was available on the extent of the damage. Poniewozik, who leads the Prospects in earned-run average after several outstanding relief performances, was making his first start of the season. He is a student at Okanagan College. (Editor's note: It's positive news for pitcher Jesse Poniewozik. He was sent to hospital.  The CT Scan revealed that he had a mild concussion. He thanks everyone for their concern.)

As the fourth inning started, in chilly and increasing rain, Poniewozik was trying to protect a two-run constructed earlier on singles by Edgar Harrell and Beaux Guilbeau, which scored Tanner Roundy and Pierce Blohowiak. Apart from that promising spurt, Medicine Hat’s Jaymon Cervantes was in near-total control.

A fielding error by shortstop Javier Ramirez soon opened the door for the Mavericks, who shared their scoring evenly in the fourth and fifth innings – four runs each with errors as a major factor. Singles by Collin Klingensmith, Tito Jones and Freddy Walker, along with one of Blohowiak’s two errors in left field, put the Mavericks up by one run before Sojka’s wicked blast off Poniewozik went for a hit and brought relief pitcher Zac Harrington into the game.

The fifth inning was equally productive for the Mavericks. Poniewozik was charged with three earned runs and Harrington with only two.

Rain forced a delay of at least an hour at the top of the sixth inning as Harrell prepared to lead off. Umpires consulted many times with officials of both teams before calling the game at about 10 p.m. The victory kept Medicine Hat alone in third place in the Alberta Conference of the WCBL and Edmonton retained sole possession of fourth spot, a game ahead of the Fort McMurray Giants.

 

All the pieces came together for the Edmonton Prospects Tuesday night as they handled the Medicine Hat Mavericks 9-5 and moved, at least temporarily, into sole possession of fourth place and the final playoff spot in the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Alberta Conference.

Some 2,300 spectators sweltered in extreme heat as they watched the Prospects benefit from solid pitching – especially in relief – while pounding out 14 hits and scoring in every inning from the third through the eighth. Rain interfered briefly in the seventh inning but did not interfere with Edmonton’s momentum.

The win left Edmonton one game ahead of Fort McMurray, with the two teams scheduled to meet at RE/MAX Field in Edmonton Saturday and Sunday.

Entirely welcome was the decision of head coach Jordan Blundell to insert Beaux Guilbeau in left field and Greyson Barrett at first base as he continues to search for consistency throughout the roster. Guilbeau drove in the vital first run with a third-inning triple and contributed a key double in the fifth. Barrett, used sparingly all season, came up with three hits, including a pair of doubles. He also made as many as four outstanding defensive plays, three of them to prevent errors by his teammates and one on a running grab of a foul pop fly early in the game.

Once again, Pierce Blohowiak was a valuable Prospect on offence. His speed led to a bunt single and an infield single as well as a pair of stolen bases as he scored three runs. Of the starters, only centre fielder Tanner Roundy did not have a hit but he earned one run-batted-in on a successful squeeze bunt.

Starting pitcher Austin Cannedy held the Mavericks to one hit through four innings. He also hit three Medicine Hat batters with pitched balls. When Cannedy struggled in the fifth, Blundell went to lefty Matt Erickson for comfort. He walked Taylor Wright to load the bases – three runs had already scored – and fanned catcher Colton Wright and designated hitter Collin Klingensmith to quell the threat.

Brandon Owens and David Wylie pitched the final three innings with no trouble although Wylie made Sal Rodriguez the fourth victim of an inside pitch when he was hit high on the body with two out in the ninth.

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.