Dawgs Ready to Defend WCBL Title

Okotoks, AB – There will be an air of familiarity at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks when the hometown Dawgs take to the field to fire up the 2021 season.

Not only will fans be back in a place they have grown to love since the team made its debut in 2007, but several of the players set to play for the club this summer have rich histories with the area themselves.

They are also familiar with the expectations that come along with being the reigning Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) champions, as many were either part of that team or watched as members of Dawgs Academy.

“We’re a big family and we have a common goal: we’re going to win this thing,” head coach Mitch Schmidt said in an interview for Dawgs TV in November. “We want to make sure there’s a ring on every single finger of (hitting and bench coach) Dave Robb’s hand.”

Beaver Tales

The first two signings announced by the Dawgs showed off their connection to Division-1 Oregon State, with outfielder Cesar Valero (Calgary, AB) and infielder Richie Mascarenas coming back a couple of years older.

“I am excited to play in front of family, friends and our fans,” Valero said. “Also, it will be special to play and share the field with my teammates that I played with in the Dawgs Academy.”

Beavers righthander Brock Townsend (Eugene, OR) will also be making his return, although he last played with the Dawgs in 2018. He posted a 3-0 record with a 2.17 ERA in six appearances, striking out 32 batters in 29 innings. He also picked up a win in the playoffs.

Don’t be surprised to see another couple of Dawgs Academy products who are now with Oregon State, outfielder Micah McDowell (Halifax, NS) and catcher Gavin Logan (Oyen, AB) find their way back to the WCBL. Both had been pegged to join the Dawgs in 2020 as well.

Academy Alums

The Dawgs haven’t stopped there when it comes to pulling talent from the neighbouring Tourmaline Field.

Pitcher Graham Brunner (Sherwood Park, AB) returns after an outstanding effort with Barton Community College in the shortened 2020 campaign. He posted a 3-1 record with a 4.73 ERA in ten outings with the Dawgs in 2019.

Fellow righthander Jordan Lussier (Winnipeg, MB) is another Academy project who  made the move up from Chandler Gilbert Community College to Division-1 Illinois State, where he set a record for most strikeouts (7) by a Redbird freshman in their first start. He also saw action in one game for the Dawgs in 2019.

Also joining them on the mound in 2021 will be Quinn Tocheniuk (Okotoks, AB) and Ethan Francis (Miscouche, PEI). Tocheniuk is a freshman at Pratt Community College while Francis is a sophomore at Northwestern State University.

“I am most excited to have the opportunity to come home and play for the team I grew up watching,” Tocheniuk said.

When it comes to the pitching staff, there will be some turnover as key pieces to the 2019 staff including Brandon Desjardins and Justin Hammergren have graduated. But pitching coach Joe Sergent believes they don’t necessarily have to look far to find their replacements, thanks to Dawgs Academy and some of the arms ready to make the jump.

“We have an advantage,” pitching coach Joe Sergent said in the Dawgs TV series. “It’s really good and really promising with a lot of those guys. We have 12-15 guys who could be put onto the roster if they’re needed.”

Headed for Home

At the plate, the Dawgs have a few more familiar names that are set to where red and white.

Aidan Rose (Calgary, AB; UBC), Kye Seitz (Okotoks, AB; Bellevue Community College), Ricardo Sanchez (Mexico City, MX; Barton Community College) and Noah Geekie (Winnipeg, MB, Emporia State University) are slated to find themselves in the friendly confines of a stadium they have essentially grown up in.

Sanchez saw the most action for the Dawgs in 2019, suiting up for 18 games, and is expected to be a big piece of the middle infield this summer. Geekie (10) and Seitz (4) will also be looking to get more time on the field.

And most recently, the Dawgs added a newcomer to the mix in Jaden Parsons (Vernon, BC). In 18 games with Cloud County in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign, the infielder hit .311 with a home run, ten RBIs and five stolen bases.

“I’m looking forward to going out there, having a fun time and getting another ring,” Schmidt said. “That’s what this is about. We have a lot of fun and because we have a lot of fun, the guys have a lot of fun and the fans see it. They respect it.”

Speaking of newcomers, the team is also excited about its latest addition to Seaman Stadium: the Core 4 (+14) Corner, which features hospitality patios, a new visitors clubhouse, concession upgrades and “top of the wall” seating. It will be another attraction for a ballpark which boasts a league-leading average of 4,000 fans per game and is consistently at the top of the Ballpark Biz North American rankings for summer collegiate programs.

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