June 23rd, 2024

Bulls take Game 2

By Sean Rooney on August 2, 2018.

Pitcher Matt Brooks of the Medicine Hat Mavericks delivers to a Lethbridge Bulls hitter during a playoff game Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018 at Athletic Park.


Once again the Lethbridge Bulls got an early home run and kept the Medicine Hat Mavericks from breaking out.

But in Wednesday’s second game of the Western Major Baseball League playoffs, that home run came with someone else on base, plus they got a masterful pitching performance to win 5-2 and knot the best-of-five series at one game apiece with the next two games on their home turf.

“It’s so much easier to throw with the lead,” said Luc Hebert, who went 8 1/3 innings, striking out 11. “We’re here to win, bottom line. It shows that we can play with them, they’re nothing special.”

Dylan Bowman’s two-run home run off Mavericks starter Matt Brooks in the first inning nearly turned out to be enough against the vaunted Mavs offence, which averaged 10 runs a game in the regular season but has been held relatively in check by the Bulls’ best arms.

“(Hebert) mixed his speeds well, he was pitching ahead,” said Nolan Rattai, had three of his team’s seven hits on a hot night at Athletic Park. “He did a really good job.”

Hebert hit his spots and got some key defensive plays behind him. One night after the Mavericks’ Jordan Dray made a game-changing catch, this time it was fellow right-fielder Jesse Hilyard robbing Colton Johnson down the line.

That followed a Blake MacDonald 2-RBI double in the top of the third inning that made it 4-0.

“I had a good jump,” said Hilyard, who will now pitch Game 3 Thursday in Lethbridge. “It was one of those where you either have to catch it or you miss it badly. It turned out to be big for us so that was good.

“It was good to show we can finally beat these guys.”

Medicine Hat made things interesting, finally getting to the Bulls bullpen with two on and one out in the bottom of the ninth. But sidearm right-hander Talon Derrick struck out David Salgueiro looking with the bases loaded, then after Colton Johnson walked to bring in a run, Colton Wright chased a curveball to end the night.

Lethbridge earned its first win over Medicine Hat since July 14, 2017 — breaking a streak of seven Mavs decisions in a row.

They’ll need two more to advance to the WMBL’s semifinal round.

“We’re still a confident club, we know we’re good and we’re just thinking about tomorrow,” said Rattai, whose team has had every reason to be confident after an impressive regular season that earned them the league’s best record. “We’re going to go and play our game, that’s all we can do.”

Only 982 fans braved the soaring temperatures Wednesday, and they were kept fairly quiet. Brooks didn’t walk a batter and struck out six in six innings but the big hits — Jaret Semeniuk had a clutch two-out single to score MacDonald in the sixth — were enough to saddle him with the loss.

Sal Rodriguez’s sixth-inning home run accounted for Medicine Hat’s only other run.

Lethbridge will throw Hilyard in Game 3 against Medicine Hat’s Jumpei Akunama. Game 4 is also at Spitz Stadium Thursday, with Game 5 back at Athletic Park Saturday if needed.

Hilyard is the latest in an unexpected bunch of hurlers, and notably hasn’t thrown against the Mavs before. Hebert hadn’t thrown in two years and began the summer as a Bulls assistant coach before injuries and other personnel problems forced him into the lineup. As a 23-year-old with college experience — he played at Prairie Baseball Academy for two seasons after a year at Colby Community College in Kansas — he’s still eligible in the WMBL.

But it’s all hands on deck for the Bulls, whose message has been keep playing until it’s over.

“Just locate with four pitches, that’s all I did,” said Hebert. “Whoever’s got the ball, they’ve got to be ready.”

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