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2021 Souris Valley Sabre Dogs Season in Review

Robert Brewer/MDN Souris Valley's Justin Cooper (left) takes an aggressive lead off of first base during an Aug. 3 home game at Corbett Field.

The Souris Valley Sabre Dogs’ 2021 campaign has been one to remember Dogs fans and Expedition League fans alike. Bursting at the seams with thrilling walkoffs and record-breaking performances, the Dogs put on quite a show for fans in the Magic City and beyond.

May

Souris Valley kicked off the 2021 campaign with an explosive 16-2 Opening Night victory against the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks, giving fans a sneak peek into the top Expedition League offense that would be on display throughout the summer. A 10-run fourth inning that saw 13 men come to the plate, in addition to seven dominant innings and 11 strikeouts by Dominick Parkhurst, propelled the Dogs to their first win of the season.

The Dogs would go on to split the next two games with the Jacks, falling in a narrow 8-7 contest before routing Wheat City once more 19-8 to lock up their first series victory of the year. The first homestand of the season wrapped up with a two-game set against the Badlands Big Sticks, and while Souris Valley outscored Badlands 18-13 in the two games, the Dogs settled for a series split to begin the first full month of play at 3-2.

The top offensive performer throughout the first five games for Souris Valley was first baseman Beau Brewer. He made headlines with his eventual 31-game hit streak, and his outstanding first half began with a scorching hot 11-for-20 start, including a 4-for-4 showing May 27, to accompany his three RBI, one double, six walks and four stolen bases in May’s five games.

June

No June swoon to be found here. The Sabre Dogs rocketed to the top of the Expedition League’s Lewis Division with a phenomenal month of June, winning 19 of 26 games and clinching a postseason berth with an eventual 22-9 first-place finish in the season’s official first half.

The Dogs began their torrid month with a three-game sweep of the Casper Horseheads, a series that helped build their win streak to five after a series-opening victory against the Spearfish Sasquatch June 4. The sweep was emphatically punctuated by the first of Souris Valley’s two 20-run outbursts, a 23-1 embarrassment of the Horseheads that saw each of the Dogs’ nine starters record at least one hit, score at least once and drive in at least one run.

Souris Valley’s five-game run was only their second-most impressive stretch during the season’s first full month, as the Dogs would later rattle off seven consecutive victories June 14-23 as part of a 14-2 run to end the month.

Before their dominant finish to the month, though, Souris Valley fought through a tough stretch in the middle of the month as all teams must. Following their series victory over the Sasquatch June 4-6, the Dogs dropped a three-game home-and-home series to the Big Sticks two games to one before losing two of three to the Sioux Falls Sunfish on the road, miring the team in a brief 2-4 slide before it got back on the horse and coasted through the remainder of the month.

Among the Dogs’ outstanding performers throughout June were southpaw Trevor Ernt and right-hander Jaiden Beck on the mound, as well as Schwabe, Brewer, Allen Grier, Justin Cooper and Jordan Williams offensively.

Ernt, perhaps Souris Valley’s most reliable starter throughout the season, joined the Dogs in mid-June for his first three starts, all within the month. He led the club to wins in all three, earning a quality start in each with exactly six innings pitched per start and only three combined runs allowed, good for 1.50 earned run average. He overcame some early command issues with a sterling five-strikeout, no-walk display in his third Souris Valley start June 30

If Ernt has been the most rock-solid Dogs starter, then Beck may take that title in relief. He joined the team in mid-June like Ernt and was a dependable option whenever head coach Alex Miklos saw the team in a tight spot. He worked 10.1 innings in June, allowing just three runs, two of which came in one of his five appearances. He notched nine strikeouts and produced three scoreless outings.

Brewer and Schwabe continued their respective outstanding campaigns throughout the month, as Schwabe earned at least one hit in 20 of his 24 games during the month, and Brewer found the hit column in every game to extend his hit streak to 31 straight games to begin the season. The duo combined for 30 multi-hit contests, 17 of which consisted of at least three hits.

Grier’s month of June got off to a hot start as well, as the outfielder notched a pair of three-hit contests in his first three games of the month and compiled a six-game hit streak during which he went 13-for-29 June 1-8. Overall, the Atlanta, Georgia native completed the month 27-for-89, or a .303 clip.

Williams’ month of June was abbreviated, but he made an impact when he was on the field for Souris Valley, earning at least one hit in each of the six games he appeared in for a 12-for-25 display in total to accompany three doubles, one triple, two home runs and eight RBI.

Cooper made his return to the Souris Valley lineup in mid-June as well, finding his way into 12 games during the month. The infielder found his groove immediately, recording 13 hits in 38 at-bats for a robust .342 average. He also drove in at least one run in eight of his 12 games, including a streak of six in a row for a total of 12 RBI.

All-Star Break

In the midst of a grueling 15-game road trip in the second half of the season, the All-Star Break, hosted by the Casper Horseheads, provided much-needed rest for the squad. Eight Sabre Dogs in total made the Lewis Division’s All-Star roster: Williams, Brewer, Schwabe, Cooper, Grier, Beck, Cullen Hannigan and Kyle Bratset, as well as the the entire Souris Valley coaching staff as a result of the team’s first-half division title.

The day before the game itself, Williams served as the Dogs’ representative in the home run derby and made his hometown proud. The outfielder cranked three home runs in each of the first two rounds and one in the final round before eventually falling to the Western Nebraska Pioneers’ JT Waldon in the tie-breaking swing-off.

With Schwabe unavailable to play in the All-Star Game, the other seven Dogs found their way into the action at one point or another, with Hannigan and Williams combining for a single and a walk, while Grier walked, stole second and scored the Lewis Division’s first run of the game in the fifth inning.

Beck and Bratset made a couple of notable contributions as well, combining for 1.2 scoreless frames with one strikeout.

July

With the second half of the season comes the inevitable roster turnover, and Souris Valley was left to soldier on through a 15-game road trip without the likes of Brewer and Ernt, among others. The squad got off to a slow start in the season’s official second half, winning just two of its first five games before cranking out wins in six of its next eight before the long stretch away from the friendly confines of Corbett Field.

Souris Valley began the roadie with a victory against Badlands to earn a sweep of the brief two-game home-and-home series before taking two of three against the Pioneers. Losses in the first two of four against the Sunfish somewhat humbled the road warriors, but the Dogs responded well to the adversity with a pair of wins to earn a split in the series before sweeping the Whiskey Jacks in four games, building their win streak to six in the waning days of July.

Overall, the Dogs finished the month with an equally-dominant 18-9 record, propelled by their outrageous offensive numbers to outscore their opposition 189-163 in 27 games.

A couple of the key victories in the second half of the season that boosted the Dogs to where they finished occurred July 2 and 29, the former a thrilling 10-9 walkoff victory that saw Souris Valley score five runs in the final two innings, capped off by a Dalton Bowling three-run game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning that sent Corbett Field into a frenzy.

The latter, right-hander Eric Wallington turned in his best start of the season, spinning seven scoreless innings and striking out 14 hitters, a season-high on both counts, against Wheat City. The Jacks loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but Aaron Suval hang on for the save in Souris Valley’s 2-1 victory.

The offense

The Sabre Dogs boasted one of the league’s best offenses throughout the season, spearheaded by the feats of Brewer, Schwabe, Cooper, Grier, Williams and others. Entering the final month of the year, the Dogs sat third in the league in batting average (.308), one point out of the top three in on-base percentage (.414), and third in OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging, .842).

The squad ran wild on the basepaths this season as well, led by Cadyn Schwabe’s 40 stolen bags in 34 games, four shy of the Expedition League record. Overall, the Dogs’ 188 steals entering August was good for one behind Sioux Falls for the most in the league. To accompany their impressive baserunning, Souris Valley also ranked second in runs scored with 502.

Push for the playoffs

With their all-around dominant 2021 campaign, the Dogs enter the month of August with their spot in the playoffs already locked up. The squad overcame key losses to the roster and a tiresome stretch on the road, and with a fearsome offense and solid pitching staff in support, the players and fans alike have high hopes and spirits entering postseason play.

2021 Souris Valley Playoff Schedule

Divisional Round

*denotes if necessary; scheduled times are Central Standard Time

Game 1:

Monday, Aug. 9

7:05 p.m.

@ Badlands

Big Sticks

(Dickinson)

Game 2:

Tuesday, Aug 10

7:05 p.m.

vs Badlands

Big Sticks

(Corbett Field)

*Game 3:

Wednesday, Aug. 11 7:05 p.m.

vs Badlands

Big Sticks

(Corbett Field)

Expedition League Championship round is scheduled for Aug. 13-15

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