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Sabre Dogs gear up for final month

Ryan Ladika/MDN Sabre Dogs players look on from the dugout during Souris Valley's June 7 contest.

There is finally rest for the weary.

The Souris Valley Sabre Dogs have reached the conclusion of their marathon 15-game road trip and will take the Corbett Field turf Tuesday evening for the first time in 20 days following a well-deserved Monday off day.

All things considered, the road warriors performed exceptionally well throughout their stint away from the Magic City. Souris Valley prevailed in 11 of its 15 consecutive road games, highlighted by a four-game sweep of the Wheat City Whiskey Jacks July 26-29 that saw the Dogs outscore their opponents 34-22.

“The travel conditions aren’t always optimal. It is the Expedition League, and it seems like every trip sure is an expedition,” head coach Alex Miklos said in early July. “The travel in the league can be a bit challenging and fatiguing at times, but that’s part of the experience, that’s part of growing as a player.”

Trips this long rarely happen even in the Major Leagues, let alone in summer collegiate leagues, at least not without a home series scattered in to break up the monotony of the travel. The Sabre Dogs handled the adversity with patience and grace, and were rewarded for it with 11 wins in 15 games.

Those 11 wins were highlighted with impressive individual and team performances that led the Dogs on their dominant trip. Eric Wallington turned in his best start of the season, and perhaps Souris Valley’s best pitching performance of the season, July 29 when he struck out 14 Whiskey Jacks over seven scoreless frames in the Dogs’ 2-1 victory. The southpaw was one hit away from a legitimate perfect game bid.

During the roadie’s final game, outfielder Jordan Williams turned in one of his most impressive offensive displays this summer, driving in a season-high five runs to accompany a three-hit night, his second game this year with three or more hits, in Souris Valley’s 12-9 victory over the Spearfish Sasquatch. The outburst extended his active hit streak, during which he has gone 9-for-23, to six straight games, his second-longest of the season.

By the time the final out was recorded July 28, each of Souris Valley’s nine offensive starters had recorded at least one hit in the Dogs’ 10-4 victory over the Jacks. Entering play August 3, Souris Valley had accomplished the feat six times, four of which occurred during the Dogs’ trip.

Souris Valley now returns home for the final homestand of the season, which was originally scheduled to be five games long, but is now three with the news that the Mining City Tommyknockers have cancelled the remainder of their 2021 campaign due to a rift between the players and the front office. A three-game set against the Casper Horseheads August 3-5 is now all that stands between the Sabre Dogs and the postseason.

It will be just the second meeting between the Dogs and the Horseheads, and the first since the first three days of June. Souris Valley swept the three-game series from Casper in convincing fashion; two of the three games were decided by four or more runs, including a 23-1 thrashing June 3.

The Horseheads, meanwhile, enter the series winners of just three of eight games during their last homestand. At 17-41 overall and 7-21 in the second half and looking at a red-hot Sabre Dogs team returning home, Casper would likely be satisfied with even one win this series. Souris Valley, on the other hand, sees an opportunity to bolster its three-game second-half lead in the Lewis Division even further and enter the 2021 Expedition League postseason on a high note.

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