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Souris Valley down the Pilots in sudden death

Sean Williams/MDN Second baseman Jake Barlow shows his bat some love during Souris Valley’s barn burner against Red River on Tuesday night at Corbett Field.

Nearing just one month left in the regular season, the Sabre Dogs continue their strangle hold of first place in their final year in the Expedition League. Holding a near perfect record of 26-1, Souris Valley has made certain that everyone knows their intentions as they hope to conclude their tenure in the Expedition League as back-to-back champions.

Currently on a 23-game winning streak, the Sabre Dogs have compiled more victories during this stretch than any other team in the league has cumulatively on the season. In a distant second-place, the Red River Pilots (11-13) have managed to close in on raising their record to the .500 mark, with the Pierre Trappers (8-20) following close behind. Despite a prolonged stint in second-place for the early part of the season, the North Iowa Ragin’ Roosters (7-18) now find themselves at the bottom of the league, trailing the Trappers by one game.

Although Souris Valley has showcased undeniable dominance thus far, a number of recent player call-ups and roster shake-ups have led to teams proving that, as of late, they are not impervious to defeat. Highlighting this recent vulnerability was Saturday night’s wild road contest against North Iowa, a battle that kept fans on the edge of their seats until the very end.

The Ragin’ Roosters took the fight to the Sabre Dogs out of the gate, putting them in a five-run hole heading into the fourth inning, a position that they have faced rarely this season.

Yet, in unrelenting Souris Valley fashion, a mid-innings rally would eventually knot the game at 7-7, but still giving North Iowa the opportunity to put only the second defeat of the season in the Sabre Dogs’ loss column with a bottom of the ninth inning at-bat.

However, a series of heatedly debated plays, along with a clutch defensive stand culminated in the Sabre Dogs extending the game into a home run derby to decide the winner.

New to the Expedition League this season, a home run derby was implemented as an alternative to extra innings in order to minimize game time and enhance the fan experience.

Serving as a testimonial to the long ball power they have exhibited throughout the season, the Sabre Dogs showed why they lead the league in home runs when second baseman Jake Barlow clinched the 8-7 win with two homers to narrowly avert what would have accounted for only their second loss on the year.

Looking to reclaim their more familiar juggernaut form, Souris Valley entered Tuesday night’s match-up against the Red River Pilots at Corbett Field looking to push their current winning streak to 24 games.

With arguably some of the best weather in the past few weeks for a home game, Souris Valley and Red River would engage in a pitching and defensive duel that would extend throughout much of the first half of the contest.

Ironically, the Pilots would sustain a no-hitter against the Sabre Dogs through the bottom of the fifth despite falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, occurring as the result of a walk that was quickly followed by a throwing error on an attempted pickoff. Taking advantage of a passed ball, center fielder Luis Pelayo would score from third to put the Sabre Dogs on the board.

In spite of a stellar pitching performance by Pilots pitcher Josh Simon that saw him no-hit Souris Valley until the bottom of the fifth, the 2022 season has repeatedly taught Expedition League fans that it is seemingly inevitable that the wooden bats of the Sabre Dogs will eventually catch fire.

After what would go down as the first of Barlow’s doubles on the evening, designated hitter Ben Newbert would follow with an RBI home run to break the seal on what would become a three-run inning for the Sabre Dogs, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Just one inning later while making his Corbett Field debut for Souris Valley, catcher Ben Wilmes would extend the lead to 5-0 by driving in Barlow on a double to left field.

Refusing to throw in the towel on a possible comeback, Red River rode a tidal wave of momentum in the top of the eighth inning that would percolate into a five-run rally that included a two-run double by first baseman Jayln Lee, followed by a monster three-run home run by designated hitter Isaac Becker to knot the game at 5-5.

Given one last opportunity, neither team could muster any ninth inning heroics, resulting in the Sabre Dogs going into their second home run derby sudden death in a week.

Upon each team nominating their representatives to decide the contest, it was a case of déjà vu for Souris Valley, as first baseman Chris Monroe and designated hitter Ben Newbert propelled the Sabre Dogs to a 2-1 home run advantage to seal a 6-5 victory.

Successfully extending their winning streak to 24 games, Souris Valley will face-off against Red River on the road tomorrow at 6:35 p.m.

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