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Bulldogs rule fastball roost for sixth straight year

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Two days after one of their closest playoff scares--a tight 8-7 win over Big Grassy--the Emo Bulldogs were aiming not to make the same mistake of falling behind early in the final of the Rainy River District Fastball League last Thursday at VanJura Stadium here.

They didn’t.

And their 6-2 win over the Stratton Bobcats ended the 2001 season with a familiar result--the Bulldogs on top, for the sixth-straight time.

“As a team, we played really well as opposed to the game against Big Grassy where we got rolling a little slow,” said Bulldog third baseman Don Copenace.

“Before the game, we decided to try and attack early so we wouldn’t end up in that situation last game,” he noted.

Copenace led off the first inning with a triple and eventually scored after Stratton ace Murray Armstrong threw a wild pitch.

Armstrong would make up for his mistake in the top of the third, smacking a homer off Bulldogs’ starter Warren Voth to tie the game at 1-1.

But Bobcats’ captain Cliff Chojko-Bolec could not put his team ahead, striking out with runners on first and second to end the inning.

The top portion of Emo’s order did more damage in the bottom of the third as Copenace found his way home after Voth was beaned by the ball while running out a grounder.

Copenace and catcher Wayne Strachan continued to stoke the Bulldog pressure in the fourth by smoking two Armstrong offerings over the wall, Strachan’s being a two-runner, to take a commanding 5-1 lead.

Voth added another home run in the fifth to further cement the lead.

Jim Chorney notched a one-out single to score Chojko-Bolec in the sixth inning to round out the game’s scoring.

Despite his team’s rather sedated celebration after Jason Kellar’s final groundout in the seventh, Voth said the Bulldogs were very pleased with the strong finish to their season.

“We still enjoy it. It still felt the same,” said Voth, who sat down 12 Stratton batters on strikes and went 2-for 3 at the plate. “[The casualness] wasn’t meant to say it was no big deal. Stratton’s an excellent team with a lot of good batters.”

Armstrong, who also struck out 12 batters, said another factor his team kept an eye on was weather. As summer reached its end, mosquitos and late sunsets were replaced by a slight chilly wind off the lake..

“The wind didn’t help at all,” he remarked. “A couple of those homers would have stayed in if it wasn’t for the wind.

“But the hits I let in were untimely, they always are. They definitely are a good team,” he added.

Bobcats’ standout shortstop Guy Arpin had a tough night, batting 0 for 4 with one strikeout. Chorney was the best Bobcat batter, going 2-for-3 with one RBI.

Copenace was the brightest of the Bulldogs, batting a stellar 4-for-4 (two singles, a triple, and a home run).

He added another title was a nice capper to another solid RRDFL season, where the Bulldogs went 18-2 (one of those losses courtesy of Stratton) and undefeated at 5-0 in the double-knockout tournament.

But the team’s failure to attend the North American Fastpich Association’s ‘AA’ World Series tournament in Hutchenson, Kan. last month admittedly was on his mind.

“It’s too bad we didn’t go to the worlds,” he said of his team, which finished in the top 10 there last year. “We decided as a team we couldn’t make it so it was nice to win another league title.”

“We were disappointed not going to Kansas. We knew we weren’t ready but it was still a little disappointed not to go,” echoed Voth.

The Bulldogs played all of their home games at VanJura after the Emo diamond had been left in less-than-great condition after early August’s storms and the fall fair, where cows and other animals were stored.

“Our field is still in pretty rough shape. It wasn’t that bad playing on this field. It’s a little harder infield but it takes some getting used to,” Copenace said.

“We had no problem coming out here.”

Emo had defeated Sight and Sound, Barwick, and Big Grassy to reach the final while Stratton triumphed over Big Island, Pinewood, and Barwick in their playoff run.

Their other loss was to Big Grassy.

The league will celebrate the season that was Sept. 15 with a dinner/dance at the Pinewood Hall. In addition to the all-league team being announced, the RRDFL hall of fame tentatively is set to welcome new inductees.

Tickets cost $15 each. For more info, call RRDFL president John Desaulnier at 483-5357

Playoff results

Aug. 16

Emo 8, Sight and Sound 3

Pinewood over Zig’s Place

Big Grassy 9, Stratton 4

Barwick 17, Big Island 9

Aug. 21

Emo 7, Pinewood 3,

Barwick 3, Big Grassy 0

Stratton 5, Big Island 2

Zig’s Place 5, Sight and Sound 2

(Eliminated: Sight and Sound, Big Island)

Aug. 23

Emo 11, Barwick 3

Big Grassy 7, Zig’s Place 1

Stratton 7, Pinewood 1

(Eliminated: Pinewood, Zig’s Place)

Aug. 28

Emo 8, Big Grassy 7

Stratton 7, Barwick 2

(Eliminated: Barwick, Big Grassy)

Aug. 30

Emo 6, Stratton 2

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