Tournaments : : Story
Friday, March 17, 2017

Okotoks look to make jump

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – "We're still fired up and ready to go."

Senior outfield Greg Student echoed the sentiments of the team that finished runner-up in the same event a year ago. Okotoks Baseball Academy is based out of the province of Alberta, approximately 30 miles south of Calgary in Canada, and in an effort to escape the cold, ironically, they found themselves in the middle of an East Coast cold front. While the weather was nice and in the 60s where our neighbors in the north reside, the weather was in the 20s and 30s in Emerson, Georgia. 

Manager Jeff Duda spoke to the leadership of the seniors and how their experience last year will help propel them forward this year. After experiencing a tough field a year ago, and finishing runner-up, the Okotoks Dawgs are ready to go in an effort to capture the Showdown-Academies crown this year. 

“We do have a few guys returning, a lot of the guys are new on the team," said Duda. "We also do have a lot of guys who have that were primarily coming off the bench that are now starting. Seeing how close we came (last year) combined with the leadership we have with our seniors should help our guys get over the hump.”

One of the challenges that faces a team from Canada is the ability to effectively simulate actual baseball simulations. Almost all teams from Canada, the northeast, and northern midwest teams will practice for the majority of the winter and spring indoors. Those challenges are often not felt by southern teams, but Duda feels that the team had successful spring practices and will be ready to make an impact during this event. 

“Most of the time everybody is in their specific positions," said Duda. "They’ll get their ground balls and the outfielders will try their best to get their work in; it’s hard to simulate fly balls indoors. We try our best to get them ready and try to simulate as best we can, given the circumstances.”

“It’s been a long time inside, we’re just looking to get outside and play like we know we can,” said senior lefthander Will Undershute. “We’ve been on the turf mounds throwing for a while. I don’t think it’s going to be any different; we were doing well in there and we expect to do well out here.”

The Dawgs pride themselves on their aggressive mentality in all aspects of the game. They look to swing the bat and are always looking to take the extra base. It's that approach to the game that leaves Duda very confident in his team's abilities and confident in their ability to make another run towards a Showdown-Academies championship. 

“We’re definitely an aggressive team on the base paths and at the plate; we like to swing the bat," said Duda. "As far as pitching goes we have a lot of depth. We don’t have that sexy 90-mph arm but we have a lot of guys who can compete in the strike zone and have two or three pitches. They’re going to give us a very good chance to win and as long as we take care of the baseball I feel like we’re really going to be in a good position to win games.

“I’m just looking to get on base and help the team out any way I can, and hopefully win the game," said sophomore infielder Cesar Valero. 

The Okotoks Dawgs got off to a bit of a rocky start on Thursday. They dropped the first game of the event to TNXL Academy but rebounded nicely to defeat the Kings Academy Knights by a score of 6-1. 

While they face an uphill battle, the Dawgs are a very deep and confident team. This team echoes that talent of last year's runner-up squad and has more of a competitive fire that can propel a team to a championship. They are definitely a team to watch for as the event heads into the playoffs and they will look to defeat EMB Gold in their final pool play game Friday at 3:00PM.

As Student told me earlier, 
“The only thing that will be different is that there are stakes now. We’re still fired up and ready to go.”

The stakes are certainly high, but the Okotoks Dawgs will look to rise to the occasion and make their way back to the championship final of the Showdown-Academies.

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