2019 All-Star Game
By John Short

Weather difficulties appeared again to interfere Sunday with Western Canadian Baseball League activity – the developmental league’s first-ever mid-season all-star game – but somehow, as it has done through the entire first half of the season, the league came up with a success.

About 1,500 fans enjoyed a 5-4 victory by the Western All-Stars over the East, especially after a heavy rainstorm delayed the start of the game by about an hour. League and competitive team officials said openly that the commitment of the Edmonton Prospects to completing the weekend of festivities was a major factor in the positive, but damp, result.

Highlights were a home-run hitting contest which added slightly to the delay because work to repair the sodden playing area at RE/MAX Field was interrupted by the competition.

Another highlight, of course, was the presence of former Canadian major-league slugger Matt Stairs, who still holds the record for pinch-hit home runs by an individual. He signed countless autographs before and during a rain-soaked marathon game between Edmonton and the Western Conference-leading Okotoks Dawgs on Saturday, then was featured prominently in Sunday’s series of events.

From a prospect strictly devoted to the Prospect, the 5-4 result was a distinct positive.

Starting pitcher Hunter Boyd pitched two opening shut-out innings and David Wylie came in to save the victory in the ninth inning. Edmonton’s leading hitter, outfielder Travis Hunt, contributed a pair of solid singles and at least one impressive defensive play to limit a potential rally by the East.

Catcher Jake Gehri started as teammate Boyd’s battery-mate, but left in later innings for an replacement, part of the All-Star plan to use every possible player. But when Wylie arrived in the late moments, Gehri was summoned as his catcher. Together, they closed out the win.


Loss To Dawgs
By John Short

Four of the five Okotoks Dawg standouts selected for the Western Canadian Baseball League all-star game today at RE/MAX Field put their skills on prominent display Saturday night, pacing a 15-2 victory over the Edmonton Prospects in game marred by rain for at least the last six innings.

But a first-inning injury prevented teammate Jaxon Valcke from joining the Okotoks hit parade. He fouled a pitch off his right leg and was escorted off the field. He did not return.

In Valcke’s absence, Liam Rihela, Rich Mascarenas, Tristian Peters and Davis Todosichuk combined for six hits in 14 at-bats and were featured in a scoring spree of 14 runs in the last six innings. T.J. Patterson drove home five runs, including four in the last inning after an early rain-dampened crowd of about 1,000 had shrunk to a few hundred.

The bats sprouted to life in the fourth inning, immediately after lefty Nick Vickers was relieved by Graham Brunner. He got credit for the win, doing his bit to keep the Prospects deeply immersed in their recent hitting slump.

Peters set the tone for the evening with a leadoff homer against Prospects starter Austin Harrington. A double by Javier Ramirez and three consecutive walks by Vickers allowed Edmonton to tie the score in its half of the inning. Edmonton’s only other run came in the seventh, long after the result had been settled.

Another Loss
By John Short

The Okotoks Dawgs extended their winning streak to three in a row and the Edmonton Prospects absorbed their fourth consecutive defeat in a fast-paced and well-played Western Canadian Baseball League game Friday night.

Both teams used the event as a prep for a rematch in Edmonton on Saturday, followed by the All-Star Game where former Canadian major leaguer Matt Stairs will be a prominent guest on Saturday.

Both teams managed all their scoring in the second inning. Edmonton’s promising start began when Neil Walker was hit by a pitch and Edgar Harrell singled sharply. Jake MacDonald’s safety scored Walker before Harrell became the team’s final run on a one-out RBI grounder by Pierce Blohowiak.

The Dawgs, tops in the WCBL’s Western Division, struck back immediately on singles by Will Hollis and Jacob Melton, doubles by Tristan Peters and Shay Shanaman, and a sacrifice fly by Isaiah Peterson.

Billy Brand gave up both Edmonton runs but qualified for the win on four innings of no-hit relief by Tanner Simpson and Dustin Schorle, who earned the safe. Trever Berg was pummelled for all Okotoks tallies but rallied to provide seven solid innings before Brandon Owens took over.

With the victory, Okotoks opened a commanding seven-game lead over the second-place Lethbridge Bulls. The Prospects, Fort McMurray Giants and Medicine Hat Mavericks are already in a serious race for the third and fourth playoff spots in the Western Division.

Tension-Filled Duel
By John Short

Relief pitcher Jon Guardado provided a valuable outing for the Medicine Hat Mavericks Thursday night, striking out the side in the ninth inning to preserve a 3-2 victory over the visiting Edmonton Prospects.

He opened his brief stint by fanning Pierce Blohowiak before walking Prospects lead-off hitter Brendan Luther who got to second base on a wild pitch but was stranded there as Guardado fanned Tyler Maskill and Travis Hunt to end the game.

Before Guardado reached the mound, Brandon Ponticelli, Hunter Cooper, Austin Oulds and Flynn Ridley limited the Prospects to five hits. Ponticelli surrendered both Edmonton runs in the first inning. Maskill scored on a Nolan Walker hit and he later scored on a single by Jake Gehri.

Edmonton starter Matt Erickson was touched for two runs before he left in the sixth inning. Nolan Rattai’s double scored P.J. Garcia in the first and and Taylor Wright squared things in the fifth on a scoring single by Sal Rodriguez. The Mavericks collected eight hits, including two each by Austin Sojka and Russell Strilchuk.

Medicine Hat’s decisive run, in the eighth, started on a walk to John Velasco. He was replaced by pinch-runner Tito Jones, who eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk. Jackson Bandow, Haden Dow, Scott Gillespie and Brandon Owens all pitched for Edmonton in the tension-filled frame. Owens provided the costly base on balls before fanning Wright and Rodriguez and leaving the Prospects needing only one run to stay alive.

Guardado’s top-level performance made sure the run didn’t arrive.


Back-and-Forth Game
By John Short

For the second night in a row, the Moose Jaw Miller Express held off the Edmonton Prospects for a narrow and intense victory in an error-filled, 10-inning Western Canadian Baseball League game at RE/MAX Field.

On the way to Moose Jaw’s 6-5 victory, Darrell Doll and Geordie McDougall each scored in the 10th after opening with singles off David Wylie. A wild pitch allowed Doll to score and Wylie’s error then made it possible for McDougall to score what would prove to be the winning run.

Clay Loranger replied for the Prospects in their half of the final inning after an infield grounder that could have gone as a hit but instead became the 10th error of the night. Surprisingly, only one of Moose Jaw’s total was unearned; Edmonton scored four of its five runs without the aid of an error.

Despite the numbers, a pair of brilliant outfield catches – by left fielder Tucker Zdunich in the ninth and right fielder Michael Borst in the 10th as Edmonton rallied – did much to provide the Miller Express victory. By sad contrast, outstanding outfielder Pierce Blohowiak mishandled a two-out, wind-blown fly by Zdunich as Moose Jaw scored an unearned run against Edmonton starter Taran Oulton.

Oulton and Moose Jaw’s Matt Jackson were outstanding despite adverse conditions until both left in the seventh inning.

Edmonton opened scoring in the first inning on bobbles by McDougall at third base. A triple by Zach Campbell and Zdunich’s single tied the game in the fifth inning and catcher Morky Melendez poled a long sacrifice fly to give his mates the go-ahead run two innings later.

A two-run burst in the ninth, featuring a Melendez double, created desperate circumstances for the Prospects, who battled back Singles by Davis Pratt and hot-hitting Travis Hunt and a double by Brendan Luther sparked Edmonton to a three-run rally, forcing both teams into extra innings but the deadlock lasted only long enough for Doll and McDougall to reach the batters’ box in the 10th.