Calgary

Okotoks Dawgs' quest for 3-peat begins as veteran pitcher prepares to leave the mound

Under the spring sun in southern Alberta, the Okotoks Dawgs will take to the diamond at Seaman Stadium on Friday to begin a three-peat quest and defend their title in the Western Canadian Baseball League.

Collegiate league champs looking to achieve the feat for a 2nd time

A baseball pitch is pictured.
A view of the pitch from the 2022 all-star game. The WCBL's annual mid-season highlight is coming back to Seaman Stadium this year. (Submitted by Okotoks Dawgs)

With a grin on his face and a subtle laugh, Tyler Hollick said the words confidently. 

"Back-to-back champions, actually," he said.  

The Okotoks Dawgs general manager and his team are heading into a season where they'll once again have a championship to defend. 

This year, however, there are even more bragging rights at stake — and additional accolades up for grabs — for the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) club.

Under the southern Alberta sky, the Okotoks Dawgs will take to the diamond at the renovated Seaman Stadium on Friday to begin a three-peat quest and defend their crown.

The collegiate league kicks off that day as the Dawgs face the Brooks Bombers in front of what's expected to be a packed ballpark.

"We call them the best fans in baseball and we truly believe that. They come out, rain or shine," Hollick said. 

"We're excited to hopefully run it back and to even add on from there."

Okotoks Dawgs players salute fans during an earlier game in their 2023 playoff run.
Okotoks Dawgs players salute the fans at a game in their 2023 playoff run. (Okotoks Dawgs)

If they emerge victorious again this year, the Dawgs will add another accomplishment to their list with a WCBL record eighth banner — and a second three-peat in franchise history after achieving the feat more than a decade ago when they were victorious in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons.

A star-studded rotation

From the dugout to left field and in the batting cage, the back-to-back reigning champs have a lot of star power on deck. 

Interim manager Lou Pote, a man who's pitched and played in the MLB, will look to guide the team to another trophy run.

Brendan Luther, the league's back-to-back playoff MVP, returns for another season with the Dawgs. He'll share middle infield duties with Ricardo Sanchez, the 2022 WCBL MVP.

On the mound, veteran left-handed pitcher Graham Brunner is playing his seventh and final year with the club. He's strung together a combined 25-5 record in the regular season and the playoffs since he started with the team in 2017.

"I always look forward to coming back here," Brunner said.

"I'm going to try and give it my all each game I pitch because it might be the last one."

Brunner, who was born in Sherwood Park, Alta., and grew up in Okotoks, will wear the red-and-white uniform for the final time this season — but he's not ruling out coming back in another role.

"I grew up in the academy. Coming back and coaching would be awesome," he said.

"I come back each year after college … if I could do it for another seven, I would."

Friday's matchup begins a three-game home stand for the defending champs before they head out on the road a week after opening day to face the Bombers again — this time in Brooks.

Later this season, the Dawgs will welcome the rest of the league when they host the WCBL all-star game for a third year in a row.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Omar Sherif

Digital Journalist

Omar is a multiplatform journalist with CBC Calgary. He often covers stories about sports, culture and diverse communities in the city. You can reach him at omar.sherif@cbc.ca for tips or story ideas.

With files from Dave Gilson