By Kimberley Hartwig
After finishing the regular season on a winning note, the Maple Creek Mohawks head into playoffs as the top team in the Eastern Division with an 8-4 record.
Thanks to their position, the Mohawks advance directly into the semifinals. They will face the winner of the Burstall Braves and the Richmound Rockets who squared off on July 20. The Mohawks are 1-0 against the Braves and 1-1 against the Rockets.
On the other side of the bracket sits the Western Division leader and last year’s league champions, the Medicine Hat Blue Jays who finished the season with an 8-3-1 mark. The Blue Jays will host the playoffs after finishing the season with the best record in the league.
The semifinals and final will be played on Sunday, July 26 in Medicine Hat. The semifinals begin at 11 a.m. with the Blue Jays facing either the Cabri River Rats or the Shaunavon Badgers. The Mohawks will fight for their place in the final during the second semifinal game. The final will be played later that evening.
The Mohawks are looking to capture their first-ever Sask-Alta Baseball League championship and coach Al Fournier is optimistic about their chances. After going through a rough patch that saw them drop three straight games the team was able to turn it around and come up with three big wins on the road while playing some of their best ball all year.
“I really like where we’re at going into the playoffs,” said Fournier. “The pitching’s been good, the defence has really been good the last couple games and offensively I like where we’re at… We’ve got a good chance. Everything’s looking pretty good right now.”
Fournier isn’t looking to any specific players to come up big during the playoffs. Instead, he’s hoping for contributions throughout the line-up but he is counting on the more experienced players to lead the way.
“I think it’s going to be important that our older guys, leaders I guess, help keep our troops confident and calm,” he said.
The Mohawks gained even more momentum heading into their first playoff game after downing the Shaunavon Badgers 12-5 on July 15 to extend their win streak to three games.
“(We) had really a great defensive game as a team,” said Fournier. “There were several great plays. There was a great play by Blake Sanderson and Blaine Schwab. Dylan Jackle had great plays in left and centre field. An outstanding performance at third base by Kirk Heaviland.”
Sanderson also came up big for the Mohawks offence, connecting for two home runs.
“Offensively, we’re hitting our stride,” said Fournier.
Houston Doig and Dalton Kaake split pitching duties, each tossing just over three innings. Doig surrendered five runs and two hits while striking out two. Kaake was clinical on the mound, allowing the Badgers no runs or hits while striking out three. Kaake also contributed to the offence, notching four hits, including two doubles.
Tanner Tetrault and Jay Selvig were on the mound for the Badgers. The Mohawks were able to connect off both pitchers. Tetrault gave up eight hits and eight runs in four innings pitched and Selvig surrendered the final four runs and four hits.