The reigning champions of the CCBC, your Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs.
Yes, indeed the dust has settled, the sun has set, and the Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs are still National Champions. This makes it six straight years for the Dawgs, or in other words, back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to back (take that Drake…). If you haven’t already seen the figures, it’s been over two thousand days since the last time a different team won the Championship. To provide you with some perspective, the last time PBA lost the National Championship, varsity members Jacob Melville and Brett Brittany were in grade seven! 2010 was the year. Vancouver was hosting the Winter Olympics (remember the Golden Goal), Obama was in just his second year of presidency, and movies like Inception, Iron Man 2, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 were all released.
Yes, it has been quite a run for PBA over the last six years, but this year’s Championship weekend was one that will be remembered fondly for its flare for the dramatic.
It began on Wednesday night, as we rolled into Kelowna and headed to the awards banquet for dinner and the presentation of the various awards for the season. PBA had a great year on the field, and the awards highlighted that. On the All-Conference First Team was Cory Scammell, Matt Malec, Nick Ankermann, Brett Brittany, Layne Currie, Brett Semeniuk, Jared Libke, and Tanner Dalton. The remaining six spots on the team were filled by players from the other five teams in the league. On the All-Conference Second Team was Carter Witbeck and Chance Wheatley. For those counting at home, that is half our starting rotation and eight of our nine position players. Other awards for the Dawgs were highest team batting average, most homeruns hit, most pitching strikeouts, and best team ERA. Cory Scammell also took home top hitter, while Jared Libke won the award for most individual strikeouts.
The following day was the beginning of the championships, where the Dawgs started on the right foot. If you haven’t read in depth about our performance on the weekend, there are daily write-ups on the Prairie Baseball Academy website. To summarize, the Dawgs started the tournament on fire in day one. A 14-2 victory followed by a 16-5 victory gave us the sweep in our doubleheader. The next day, we continued the dominance with a 16-1 victory. The following day we played the host-team and eventual silver medalists, the Okanagan College Coyotes, and won 7-1. The four wins in round robin play came in large part to the incredible offense that showed up in the games, evident through the scores. The starting pitching in the games was also outstanding and held our opponents down the whole weekend.
The final day was where we faced our first obstacle. In a repeat of Saturday night’s game, we faced off again against the Okanagan Coyotes in the finals. After we made it 2-0 early, the Coyotes had a big fifth inning and were up 4-3 for the second half of the game. After they scored their three, Thursday’s starter Jared Libke threw four shutout innings out of the bullpen to hold the Coyotes at four runs.
Heading into the ninth inning down by a run, there was some serious nerves being felt on the bench. After five straight years of winning this very game, we were only three outs away from watching the wrong team celebrate in front of us. This was the Dawgs’ final chance. After hitting the ball well all day but not finding much luck, the Dawgs finally found the holes in the defense. Chance Wheatley started it off by picking up his first hit of the game, a one-out single to right field. Following him was Layne Currie, who hit a ball through the left side of the infield to reach base, representing the winning run. After the second out of the inning was recorded, Cory Scammell stepped up with the season resting on his shoulders.
With Okanagan being a single out away from winning the championship and breaking our half-decade streak, Cory Scammell delivered. He ripped a ball to right field, his first hit of the day, to score Chance Wheatley and tie the game at four. The bench exploded as the game would not be lost in this inning any longer. Following Scammell, was Lethbridge’s own Matthew Malec. He entered the batter’s box with the championship run standing ninety feet away. Malec was hitless on the day, but had ripped multiple balls to different parts of the field each time. This time, on the very first pitch, Malec swung. He made contact with the ball and started running towards first base. Every eye in the park fell on that ball, as it bounced twice and escaped the infield, plating Currie and winning the championship for the Dawgs. The players burst out of the bench and mauled Malec at first base, as he had just etched his name into history as the player to bring home the winning run in the Dawgs’ sixth straight National Championship.
There was a moment of disbelief from many of us as we sprinted onto the field. After watching the Coyotes roll through our potent offense all game, the clutch hits in the final inning had shocked many. The celebration ensued in right field as Malec’s jersey was ripped off of him and the Dawgs were let out of their cage and ran free in the outfield knowing they were all champions.
The win also gave PBA its second straight undefeated championship weekend (five straight wins each year), improving the current championship weekend winning streak to fifteen (which stretches over the last three years). These numbers come from a continuation of the end to the season we had. After a turning point in Kamloops where we did a serious evaluation of the leadership and chemistry of the team, we went on to win nineteen out of our last twenty games, this run included the twelve game winning streak as well. When counting playoffs as well, the 2016 Dawgs went 24-2 over the last month and a half, surely one of the most successful finishes to a season PBA has seen.
And that concludes it. Later in the week, Cory Scammell was named Dawg of the Year, marking the end of his PBA career, as well as eleven other players. The Dawgs say bye to Cory Scammell, Matt Malec, Chance “Crush” Wheatley, Dustin Braun, Mitch Grisbrook, and Layne Currie on the offensive side. And from the pitching staff, they say farewell to Jared Libke, Luc Hebert, Andrew Grieder, Dylan Theroux, Logan McDonald, and myself.
It’s a weird feeling being finished. I walked out of the facility a few days ago knowing that it would be the final time I walked through the doors a Dawg. We survived years of crazy workouts, freezing temperatures, and long bus rides. During the time, we know it’s hard. For me, it has been some of the most challenging years in my life so far. But as I sit back and see my last three years at PBA, I feel large amounts of pride and admiration. I will miss the people and I will miss the place.
Before our season starts, we always sit down and make team goals. The first three things said are always the same. They are to come first in league, to repeat as champions, and to “leave a legacy”. The first two are measurable, the third is not. We finished with a record of twenty-two wins and six losses, which gave us the title of League Champions. We made it to the Championship game and won, which gave us the title of National Champions. But in order to leave a legacy, you need to do something as a team that will be spoken of for years. I firmly believe that the bottom of the ninth in the Championship game is one of many details within our legacy this year. We started the year with one win and eleven losses. After a grueling preseason on the bus, we had improved our record to 8-13. Then with a fresh start entering the regular season, we posted winning records every weekend except one. We swept three of our last four weekends, and we did it as a tightly-knit unit of brothers. Legacy: left.
As I go, I thank you all so much for your support over the last two years. To everyone that has been involved in my baseball career, from Mission single-A to Cardinals to PBA Dawgs, thanks so much. It’s been a pleasure to meet everyone along the way and I hope the best for all of you. To all the readers of the Dawg blog over the last two years, thanks so much. This page has helped me to constantly practice what I hope to do for a long time, write. The support and encouragement from all is greatly appreciated.
For this and for the last two years, thanks for the read.