By Sean Rooney on July 10, 2018.
They could clinch a playoff spot by the end of the week, but the Medicine Hat Mavericks started it off with a high-intensity potential playoff preview.
The Mavs lost at home for the second time in three days Monday, a 6-5 decision to the Okotoks Dawgs which ended with the teams nearly fighting on the infield at Athletic Park.
“You can’t win ’em all,” said Mavericks starting pitcher Jared Libke. “We’ll take something from it and move on, that’s all you can do.”
Okotoks turned a 2-1 deficit into a 6-2 lead with a confidence-building five-run rally in the eighth inning. After they got Libke off the mound, Dawgs hitters rattled off six hits in the frame including two-run singles from Nate DeChaine and Ryan Humenuik.
“They’re a really good club, we played really well tonight,” said Humenuik. “They kind of stymied us a little bit early on, but that’s a lot of fun. You can’t ask for a better way to finish a ball game.”
Answering Okotoks’ big eighth inning, Medicine Hat native Nolan Rattai singled home a pair with two outs in the bottom half of the frame. But Jaxson Hooge popped out to strand the bases loaded.
In the ninth Dawgs closer Craig Smith hit Reed Odland, who later scored on a Zack Gray sacrifice fly. Jordan Dray singled with two men on but David Salgueiro was easily thrown out at home trying to score the tying run to end the game.
Salgueiro appeared to jump into catcher Marcus Skundrich and the two exchanged words before being separated. Okotoks coach Mitch Schmidt then walked towards the Mavericks players and said something that made Salgueiro incensed to the point he had to be held back by teammates.
Schmidt’s already been suspended earlier this season for throwing chairs to protest a call in Edmonton.
Medicine Hat remains ahead of 20-10 Okotoks in the Western Major Baseball League standings at 24-5, and both teams entered Monday’s game at Athletic Park fully aware they could meet in the playoffs in a few weeks.
“We’re right behind them, so that’s a full game we get back that we really needed,” said Humenuik. “We’re going to play as hard as we can, make sure if nothing else that it’s close at the end.”
The teams will meet again for a three-game set in Okotoks July 26 and 27, just before the end of the regular season.
Libke, who let up just three hits in 6 2/3 innings to take the no-decision, isn’t concerned about his team getting ahead of themselves down the stretch.
“I think we have a lot of guys that won’t let that happen,” said Libke. “Coaches are keeping us grounded, there’s none of that going on.”
Earlier Monday, Carson Johnson tripled and scored on Dawgs starter Cameron Doherty in the fourth inning, then singled home Odland in the fifth.
Julien Ly took the loss in relief for Medicine Hat, while Doherty went seven innings for the win. Smith earned his league-leading eighth save.
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