It was déjà vu all over again at Seaman Stadium in the WCBL Final opener.
For the second straight home game Brendan Luther and Alejandro Cazorla went deep to lift the Okotoks Dawgs to a resounding 8-0 victory over the Medicine Hat Mavericks in Game 1 of the best-of-three set on Aug. 15 backed by a dominant outing from starter Graham Brunner.
“I just want to win, that’s what it comes down to,” Luther said. “We’ve got so much depth that it doesn’t matter how well I play, there’s two other guys doing the exact same thing. (Cazorla) is right there and doing a great job.”
Luther, the 2022 WCBL Playoff MVP, hit his third home run in as many games, this one of the leadoff variety with a solo shot over the right field porch in the bottom of the first.
“We always want to punch first,” Luther said. “That’s kind of what we’ve been doing all playoffs, get that first run, get that first momentum and as long as we’re doing that, I think we’re in a comfortable spot.”
Okotoks doubled its lead in the second inning on a fielder’s choice with Eric Hartman getting good contact to drive in Connor Crowson from third base.
Cazorla, hitting out of the cleanup spot, continued to swing a hot stick with a towering two-run home run way over the left field fence to make it a 4-0 game in the third. The fourth inning brought an additional three runs of insurance with Logan Grant and Trent Lenihan delivering an RBI single and double, respectively, followed by a bases loaded walk drawn by Crowson.
That was more than enough run support for Okotoks’ starter.
On the mound, veteran southpaw Brunner had a commanding performance.
The Emporia University hurler, a Dawgs Academy alumnus part of Okotoks’ two most recent championship teams, retired the first seven Mavericks in order.
“It’s great,” Brunner said. “The average on the year, they were probably putting up eight (runs) and it’s a little bit off your shoulders, you don’t have to keep putting up zeroes every inning.”
He did that anyway.
Brunner allowed just three hits over 6.2 innings, striking out eight in what was his first chance to pitch in a WCBL championship series before heading back to college on Wednesday.
“We’re leaving tomorrow at 5:30 a.m. so that’s going to be a fun drive,” said Brunner, a member of the 2019 and 2022 championship teams. “But this is the first finals game I’ve ever been to, and I’ll get to watch (Game 2) from a hotel tomorrow and hopefully the boys can close it out.”
Okotoks will look to pull its seventh championship out of the Hat on Wednesday.
Game 2 is Aug. 16 in Medicine Hat. If necessary, the series decider goes down Thursday, Aug. 17 at Seaman Stadium.
For more information, go to dawgsbaseball.ca.