Mirroring many awe-inspiring fireworks shows that took place over the Fourth of July weekend, the Souris Valley Saber Dogs look to go out with an unforgettable bang as they enter the Expedition League Championship Series against the Pierre Trappers.
On the precipice of repeating as Expedition League champions, Souris Valley has been all but perfect over the course of summer. With only one loss to their name, the Saber Dogs are on a 25-game win streak that has occurred in-tandem with compiling a league-best 30-1 overall record. To put things in perspective, the Pierre Trappers, who are challenging Souris Valley for the league title, have a current record of 12-23. Comparatively, that is a .967 winning percentage for the Saber Dogs to a .342 winning percentage for the Trappers.
When analyzing the moving parts behind the nearly flawless Souris Valley season, much of their success can be attributed to a virtually insurmountable level of balanced play.
Offensively, the Saber Dogs hold the Expedition League all-time record for combined batting average at .369, along with leading the league this season in team home runs with 43.
Furthermore, as far as individual statistics are concerned, Hunter Delanoy, who compiled a 25-game hitting streak that extended until June 25, now holds the league record in two categories thanks to his .471 batting average and .565 OBP. In the home run category, 6’5″ first baseman Chris Monroe has been a threat to go yard at every at-bat, leading the Expedition League with 14 home runs while also leading an impressive .402 batting average and the Saber Dogs with 50 RBIs.
Matching the potency of their offensive prowess this season, Souris Valley’s pitching and defensive efforts are an undeniable, but often overlooked, catalyst contributing to the team’s dominance.
Setting multiple league records during the 2022 season, the Saber Dogs pitching staff posted a suffocating 1.91 ERA and allowed only 45 earned runs across 31 total games.
Additionally, six pitchers on the Souris Valley roster have notched three or more wins, with Thomas Gutierrez pacing the team with five wins and zero losses.
Not to be forgotten in the embarrassment of riches that has been the Saber Dogs season is the man that has orchestrated their success, skipper Michael Keeran. Potentially adding to an already stellar list of coaching accolades, a 2022 Expedition League championship would make it the ninth post-season championship of his career and his sixth as a head coach.
In the wake of several unexpected Expedition League schedule changes occurring over the course of the past week, the regular season was unfortunately brought to an abrupt end, thus resulting in Keeran earning his sixth regular season title as a head coach.
With the chance to solidify what could be considered the most dominant season by a team in the history of the Expedition League, Souris Valley traveled to Hyde Stadium on Thursday night for the first of their best of five games Expedition League Championship Series against the Pierre Trappers .
Showing no sign of big game jitters, the Saber Dogs stormed into the top of the first inning in typical Souris Valley fashion.
Continuing his success from the lead-off position, left fielder Luis Pelayo, who is batting 429 over 25 games in 2022, hits a hard liner into center for a single to put the Saber Dogs scoring machine into motion. For Pelayo, this was just the beginning of what would become one of his best games of the season.
Followed by a combination of singles by right fielder Hunter Delanoy and designated hitter Ben Newbert and a double by second baseman Jake Barlow, Souris Valley would conclude the first inning by building a 3-0 lead over Pierre.
Carrying their momentum into the second inning, the Saber Dogs showed no signs of taking their foot off of the gas. After a lead-off double by center fielder Eddie Martinez, Pelayo made his second hit of the game count by crushing a two-run home run off Trappers starting pitcher Lewis Manning, extending the Souris Valley lead to 5-0.
Not content with just one home run on the night, Pelayo would make the most of his at-bat in the top of the seventh inning by homering once again, hitting a solo shot that would the score to 6-1.
Defensively, the Saber Dogs leaned on starting pitcher Thomas Gutierrez to squelch what little offense the Trappers were able to muster throughout his innings on the mound. Showcasing why he leads the Souris Valley pitching staff with five wins, Gutierrez allowed just five hits and one earned run over seven innings before being replaced by Tyler Elliot to begin the eighth inning.
Heading into the bottom of the eighth inning with the score 6-2, Pierre would put the pressure on the Saber Dogs and put themselves in a late-game situation to knot the score.
After a series of batters being walked and hit by pitches, the Trappers found themselves with a two-out, bases loaded scenario that could cut the lead or possibly tie the game.
However, the Trappers would hit a sharp grounder to Barlow resulting in a throw to first baseman scoring Chris Monroe for the final out of the inning, effectively ending the last credible opportunity of the game for Pierre.
With neither team able to generate any offense in the ninth and final inning, Souris Valley managed to sustain their lead and hold on to a 6-2 victory.
Carrying the Saber Dogs to victory, Thomas Gutierrez earned his sixth win of the season, while Luis Pelayo would finish the game 3-for-4 with three RBIs on two home runs.
Game 2 of the Expedition League Championship Series will take place today at Hyde Stadium.