By Sean Rooney on July 14, 2017.
While the Okotoks Dawgs left Athletic Park with a 12-5 win over the Medicine Hat Mavericks Thursday and a bigger cushion atop the Western Major Baseball League’s Western Conference, the race for first certainly isn’t over.
“We’re going for first place, that’s our goal,” said Mavs head coach Michael Thompson prior to the evening’s matchup at Athletic Park. “We feel like those home games are important for us so we’re looking for that first or second spot so we can at least get three home games in the first round.”
Now 23-10, the Dawgs are 4.5 games up on second-place Medicine Hat (18-14) and Lethbridge (19-15) with 15 games to go in the regular season.
Finishing at least second would ensure home field advantage in the best-of-five first round of playoffs in early August.
“We’re going all-out in these next 17 games, trying to win the division,” said Thompson. “We’ll re-evaluate things that last week, see where we’re at, see whether we need to rest some guys or whether we need to go full-bore but we’ll play it by ear.”
On Thursday, Okotoks showed why they’ve taken the lead in the standings, connecting for nine runs between the sixth and seventh innings, most of which came after they got Mavs starter Jared Libke out of the game. Greg Cullen and Cameron Campbell each hit home runs for the Dawgs, who made the most of their 10 hits.
Libke struck out six but also walked five in 5 1/3 innings, three of the seven runs he allowed unearned on errors.
Medicine Hat had chances, but stranded the bases loaded twice in the early innings and left a total of 13 runners on base in front of a crowd announced at 881. Their 14 hits included Colton Wright’s two-run home run in the sixth, which gave the home fans some hope, but Okotoks’ stellar bullpen didn’t allow anything in the final three frames.
Thompson all but confirmed Wednesday starter Aaron Garner was out for the season after leaving with apparent shoulder problems. That’ll put a bit more pressure on the Mavs’ arms, but he’s confident they’ve got enough to do the job. Newcomer Brady Tedesco will start in Okotoks Saturday, following Connor Deeds in the first part of tonight’s doubleheader in Lethbridge and Tanner Helms for the second game.
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