A Look Back at 2023: A Giant Recap

by Giants Insider

Fort McMurray, Alberta - You cannot look forward without a quick glance in the rearview to make sure you remember where you once were. Join us as we take a quick spin through the Summer of 2023.

The 2023 Fort McMurray Giants will be remembered for their record-setting win total on the field and contributions off of it within the community but as with any sport it came with it's ups and downs. 

The Giants started their season on a tough ten day road trip that began in Sylvan Lake and ended in Lethbridge. Slightly undermanned, as players continued to complete their commitments south of the border, the Giants opened their season with three consecutive losses by a single run to the Gulls. The series featured several pitchers duels including standout performances from Alex Escobar (Ceres, CA) and Sean Dunn (Fort McMurray, AB). 

Brooks, Alberta brought better luck for the Giants as they picked up their first win of the season, 20-12 over the Bombers. The Giants offense exploded for runs in every inning except the third, highlighted by big performances from Bryson Collins (Mansfield, TX) and Max Stagg (Adelaide, AUS) who combined for 8 hits, including 4 doubles, 8 runs scored and 6 runs batted in.

A quick trip to Okotoks en route to Lethbridge lead to a heartbreaking extra inning loss at the hands of the Dawgs, 5-4 in 11 innings. The Giants finished their first road trip against the Lethbridge Bulls at Spitz Stadium before returning home with a disappointing 2-8 record headed into their Home Opener.

Although the Giants Home Opener didn't go in their favour, the bounce back lead to the first winning streak of the year. Fort McMurray defeated the Medicine Hat Mavericks before taking the first two games of a four game series against the Okotoks Dawgs capped by a walk-off home run from two-year Giant All-Star, Jordan Bach (Ladner, BC).

The Giants continued to ride the waves of the Western Canadian Baseball League season, heading back out on the road this time to neighboring Saskatchewan to take on the East Division. Unlike the first trip of the season, this one was a success, returning to Fort Mac with 4-1 record while away from Legacy Dodge Field and bringing the Giants record to three games below .500.

The "dog days of Summer" are meant to describe late July as temperatures rise and each day became a tougher task, for your Giants this was late June. After a quick home stand they shipped back to Saskatchewan for another road trip but as July approached and the bus pulled back into Legacy Dodge Field the tides were about to turn for the Giants. Canada Day marked the beginning of a 21-day home stand and a chance to defend their home turf for a change after spending most of the first six weeks on the road. 

As the Giants welcomed Swift Current to town, the season turned, beginning with a 7-1 win over the 57's. The victory highlighted by a dominate performance on the mound from two-year Giant, Jackson Hohensee (Anthem, AZ) who threw 7 shutout innings, while six different Giants had hits in the game. 

The following day featured the classic day, night doubleheader (due to a rainout from June) that saw both animosity and celebration within hours. The matinee, entered the late stages of play, Giants trailing 1-0 when a controversial call was made leading to Head Coach, Joe Ellison's ejection. The call sparked the Giants as Jayden Shafer (Tecumseh, OK) immediately hit a double, then scored later that inning to extend the game into extra innings and lead to an eventual victory. After the celebration of the comeback, came the celebration of Métis Day at Legacy Dodge Field before the night cap in front of a great Wednesday crowd. The Giants trailed early before coming back for the second time on the day and winning, 10-5 on the back of Joe Finder (Lincoln, NE) who drove in 3 RBIs on the night.

Next up, the 2023 All-Star Game, hosted in Okotoks, Alberta featuring seven Fort McMurray Giants who were selected to participate in the prestigious event: Jordan Bach (Ladner, BC), Bryson Collins (Mansfield, TX) Logan Knight (London, ON), Bennett McCollow (Minneapolis, MN), Jeff Tiw (Burlington, ON), Alfonso Villalobos (Montreal, QC) and Assistant Coach Lennon Richards (Toronto, ON).

The Giants used the momentum from prior to the All-Star Game break the remainder of the season. They would finish with a 16-4 record over their last 20 games. Including back-to-back victories over the Okotoks Dawgs in Okotoks before returning home to sweep the Brooks Bombers in a five-game series to finish the 2023 WCBL Regular Season. During the Giants run, Outfielder Michael Buckley (Mesquite, TX) put together an impressive July including a 16-Game Hit Streak which helped propel Fort McMurray down the stretch.

The season ultimately came to an end at the hands of the eventual 2023 WCBL Champion, the Okotoks Dawgs in the First Round of the WCBL Playoffs. The Giants fell in Game One, 8-0 in Okotoks before dropping Game Two, 4-2 in front of the home crowd. 

The 2023 Fort McMurray Giants broke the franchise single-season Wins Record on August 4th with a 5-0 victory over the Brooks Bombers before tacking on one more win in the season finale the following day. 

The new standard has been set, a 30-Win Season is complete and now we get to look forward to what will be in 2024!