Race in WCBL Still Skin-Tight
By John Short

A brilliant relief outing by seldom-used left-hander Haden Dow provided the momentum Thursday night as the Edmonton Prospects, battling to stay alive in the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Western Division playoff race, downed the Yorkton Cardinals 12-6 before about 1,800 fans at RE/MAX Field.

Dow rescued starter Andrew Lowe after Yorkton struck for three runs in the third inning. Yorkton’s damage was done on safeties by Payton Harris, Tanner Huber and Phil Whelan and a fielder’s choice. Dow retired Mike Culpepper on a long fly to end the rally, then retired 10 consecutive Cardinal hitters. His personal highlight was consecutive fifth-inning strikeouts of Huber, Clayton Keyes and Matt Korman.

Finally, after Logan MacDougall was retired leading off in the seventh, hits by Hut Smith, Harris and Huber created another three-run Yorkton outburst as Dow’s weariness grew evident. It then became Zac Harrington’s turn to step in and the aggressive, hard-throwing right-hander quickly limited the damage.

Costly Prospects errors were committed by outfielder Tanner Roundy and second-baseman Zach Thomas, but both compensated for defensive flaws with major contributions offensively.

Thomas scored four runs and personally collected three doubles – half of the six collected by Edmonton in a 17-hit attack that also featured Travis Hunt’s three-run homer to left in the sixth inning. Roundy scored after a single and a stolen base in the third inning, then delivered a sacrifice bunt during a two-run outburst in the seventh.

Returning to the red-hot hitting pace he showed earlier in the season, Hunt also scored after a double in the first inning and drove in a run with a single in the fourth.

The Prospects victory was essential. They now sit one-half game behind the Fort McMurray Giants and have one game in hand on their rivals. The Medicine Hat Mavericks aided Edmonton by thumping Fort McMurray 10-0. The Giants created their slight edge by downing Edmonton three times in four games during the last week.

Nobody Said This Would Be Easy
By John Short

The Fort McMurray Giants got a solid offensive display and excellent starting pitching Wednesday night to defeat the Edmonton Prospects 11-2 and stretch their margin over Edmonton in the race for a Western Division playoff berth to 1.5 games as the Western Canadian Baseball League regular season enters its final week.

Nick Cardinal handled the mound chore neatly, surrendering only six hits and fanning nine in eight innings. Outfielder Travis Hunt whacked a fourth-inning homer for Edmonton’s first run and collected the last one in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Jake Gehri.

Before Hunt connected, the Giants had registered a first-inning run on doubles by Rich Ortiz and Gunner Rainey against starting Prospects pitcher Austin Herrington, then struck for three more in the third on an Ortiz single following consecutive hits by Cam Sanderson, Max Ortiz and Brady Wood, who earned two runs-batted in for his sharp double.

Every Edmonton pitcher had trouble with the potent Fort McMurray lineup. Zac Herrington gave up four runs, three of them earned, in the sixth inning. By the time he was pulled by head coach Jordan Blundell, the game was clearly well in hand for the Giants, playing at home.

Edmonton tonight opens an essential three-game series at RE/MAX Field against the Yorkton Cardinals, who hold down sixth and last place in the WCBL’s Eastern Division. The Giants open a similar series with the capable Medicine Hat Mavericks. In their final scheduled tests, Fort McMurray faces Yorkton while the Prospects – who have one game in hand – close out against the Brooks Bombers.

Important Victory
By John Short

Atonement was sweet on Tuesday night for the Edmonton Prospects.  Two days after being defeated by the Fort McMurray Giants in both ends of a double-header with a playoff spot on the line for both teams, the Prospects rebounded with a hard-fought 5-4 victory at the home park of the fourth-place Giants, who now own a one-half game edge over their rivals for the fourth and final post-season berth in the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Western Division.

Through the sixth and seventh innings, there were clear signs that doom was in store for the Prospects, who have struggled with terrible weather conditions for home games all season. A two-run double by Peyton Crispin and a sacrifice fly by Tanner Hess followed singles by Cam Sanderson and Max Hewitt were enough to destroy Edmonton’s early three-run lead and chase starting pitcher Trever Berg. In the seventh, Eric Meyer was hit by a pitch and came around to score on Hewitt’s double.

But the Prospects did not fold.

Matt Erickson provided some excellent relief work on the mound and the bats – dormant for much of the season – came to life again. A walk to Travis Hunt and the second double of the game by Javier Ramirez scored the tying run in the eighth inning. In the ninth, versatile Katsu Takahashi drew a walk as the lead-off man, then Nolan Walker hammered a triple to give Edmonton a slight edge once more.

The run was scored against Keith Manby, who has been effective against the Prospects in previous outings.

Erickson, credited with the win, kept the potent Fort McMurray offence under control until the ninth inning, when head coach Jordan Blundell went to David Wylie, the ranking fireman in Prospects gear for most of the season, and he kept the door shut although the potential tying run was on base.

Edmonton’s opening run was generated by Beaux Guilbeau on a single to score Hunt in the first inning. Pierce Blohowiak’s double became the second run in the fifth inning on the first Ramirez two-bagger of the evening.

Oh-oh!  Long Way To Playoffs Now
By John Short

The Fort McMurray Giants did exactly what they planned on Sunday, sweeping a Western Canadian Baseball League double-header from the Edmonton Prospects and taking clear possession of fourth place and the final playoff spot in the Western Division.

It’s fair to say the Giants won both coming and going: they struck for four runs in the first inning of the opening game on the way to an 8-5 win, then wrapped up the nightcap with three runs in the top of the seventh for a 4-1 triumph in the nightcap. At the first pitch of the two seven-inning games, Edmonton held a half-game lead over Fort McMurray for fourth place; at the finish, the Giants had a lead of 1 1/2 games, with the apparent advantage of two games with the Prospects in Fort McMurray Tuesday and Wednesday.

In both Sunday games at RE/MAX Field, the Prospects bats were virtually silent.

The only exception came in the final inning of the opening game when a home run by Jake MacDonald and a triple by Pierce Blohowiak piloted a four-run rally. But the outburst came far too late to overcame an 8-1 margin constructed entirely against Hunter Boyd, who has been the team’s best starter all season.

Max Hewitt, Brady Wood, Richard Ortiz, Chase Adkinson and Peyton Crispin each singled to start the rout. With one or two exceptions, the hits were routine ground balls or looping line drives that simply avoided the Prospects defenders.

Given the early lead, Tyler Hodder pitched to contact and was entirely comfortable until the final inning, which ended when pinch-hitter Jake Gehri, prominent for Edmonton all season with both power and consistency, grounded out with two mates on base.

Faced with the task of winning the nightcap to salvage a split of the twin-bill and keep the Prospects alone in fourth place, lefty Taran Oulton provided a noble effort. Staked to a far-from commanding one-run lead, he scattered four hits through five innings before a two-out walk to Tanner Hess left the door slightly ajar. Gunner Rainey and Crispin followed with quick singles to tie the game before Oulton could retire the side.

Left without relief by head coach Jordan Blundell to start the seventh, Oulton’s weariness became more evident. B.J. Minarcin started the decisive frame with an infield single and scored the ultimate winning run on Hewitt’s long double. Wood’s single scored Hewitt before regular fireman David Wylie entered the game. Hits by Ortiz and Adkinson extended the margin.

Edmonton managed only four hits off left-handed Fort McMurray starter Tucker Sorenson and reliever Keith Manby.

By John Short
Led by the big bat of .400-hitter Tristan Peters, the Okotoks Dawgs continued to stretch their runaway lead in the Western Canadian Baseball League’s Western Division with an 8-0 rout of the Edmonton Prospects, who hold fourth place and the last playoff berth in the Alberta wing of the two-province organization.
Peters rapped a second-inning home run among his two hits in a pair of at-bats. He also scored twice and drove in a pair of runs. The 10-hit Okotoks attack accounted for three runs in each of the first two innings and a pair in the seventh.
Primary victim was little-used Jackson Bandow, whose effort on the mound allowed head coach Jordan Blundell to set ace starters Hunter Boyd and Taran Oulton aside for vital games Saturday night and Sunday afternoon against the Fort McMurray Giants, Edmonton’s closest rival for the last remaining playoff vacancy.
All five runs against Bandow were earned. In relief, Scott Gillespie was charged with one earned run of the three he yielded. Gillespie showed good stuff in his outing with six strikeouts in five innings.
Only Beaux Guilbeau had two hits for the Prospects. Javier Ramirez and Jake Gehri, who each played less than the full game, shared the other two.
Nolan Ruff extended his 2019 WCBL record to seven victories and no losses. After he showed total command for seven innings, a pair of perfect one-inning relief stints completed the powerful Okotoks performance.