The Sabre Dogs are heading to the Expedition League Championship series for the first time in franchise history after being crowned the Lewis Division champions.
Tuesday night’s game against the Badlands Big Sticks had players and coaches feeling quite emotional, to say the least.
“Our strategy last night was really just jumping out early, trying to put pressure on the defense as early as possible, get guys on and really just execute pitches,” said Allen Grier, left fielder.
And they did just that. The Sabre Dogs got an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, then scoring another in the fifth.
A solo home run from the Big Sticks in the sixth made it a 3-1 ball game.
But things changed in the top of the 7th. Relief pitcher Craig Schmich..got himself into a jam: loading the bases with no outs.
“I wish I could say that I had some kind of, you know, magic saying or some kind of magic out there. But, there wasn’t really a whole lot I needed to tell him at all. I more or less went out there just to give him a quick breather, let everyone kind of settle down a little bit,” said Alex Miklos, head coach.
And, it worked.
A big strikeout, a play at the plate and then a fly ball, left the Big Sticks stranded.
“Seeing everybody in the dugout fired up for me and fired up to get out of it, it just kind of pumped me up as well. I knew that I put my team into that situation where we possibly could’ve given up the lead, and I knew that I had to fight every way to make sure that that didn’t happen,” Schmich said.
“Big, just gigantic momentum swing on our side and you could see it in our dugout after that inning. You knew that we were going to come out and score a couple more runs in that next inning,” said Benton Schweinfurth, assistant coach.
The Sabre Dogs capitalized on the momentum.
Steven Moretto sending the ball over the wall in left field for a 3-run homer.
“I feel like that was just the dagger, I mean. It really just closed the game for us,” said Justin Cooper, shortstop.
After three more outs, and a score of 7-1, they’re heading to a place they’ve never been before: the Expedition League Championship Series.
“It’s awesome! Like, I had no idea that they’ve never made it until last night when they were all talking about it and it’s huge. It’s a huge feeling for us,” Schimich said.
“Now that’s a feeling that I really can’t describe at this moment in time, but I really can tell you it’s a blessing to be here at the end of the day. It is,” Grier said.
“It’s not every day you can just come across a championship! So, just the memories with the guys that you’ve been battling with the whole summer and see all the hard work pay off,” Cooper said.
“Feels awesome, you know. Coming into this season, we had high expectations. Alex put together a great roster so we knew that we were going to have a good team,” said Michael Newstrom, assistant pitching coach.
“It feels really good, you know? Obviously, there’s a lot of work that goes into this from myself, and the front office, from our players,” Miklos said.
“Got two more games to win and, like, that’s what everyone kept saying. They weren’t satisfied with just those two wins. They weren’t satisfied with winning that trophy. Everyone in the dugout after the game was saying, ‘We got two more. We got two more to go get,'” said Schweinfurth.
And with a 45-18 record, the best in franchise history, they’re proving they have what it takes.
“We have a really solid team, a really deep team. If we play our game, if we play hard, if we play the right way, if we take care of the baseball, if we command the strike zone on the mound, I think we’re a really tough team to beat,” Miklos said.
The Sabre Dogs head to Spearfish South Dakota on Friday to face the Sasquatch for game one of the Championship Game series. They’ll head to the Magic City on Saturday for game two and game three on Sunday, if needed.