June 23rd, 2024

Third time’s the charm

By Ryan McCracken on August 6, 2018.

NEWS PHOTO SEAN ROONEY
Jared Libke of the Medicine Hat Mavericks pitches in the second inning of a playoff game against the Edmonton Prospects Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017 at Re/Max Field.


rmccracken@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNMcCracken

Medicine Hat Mavericks pitcher Jared Libke is convinced the third time will be the charm.

The Mavericks are set to open a third consecutive Western Major Baseball League Western Division final against the Edmonton Prospects after dropping each of the past two meetings as the higher seed. While it’s an eerily similar situation to years past — as the Prospects enter the series hot off an upset over the Okotoks Dawgs for a third straight summer — Libke insists this year will be different.

“I think we’re just better all the way around. We’re more consistent in every facet. This is just our year,” said Libke, adding each of his past two playoff runs with Medicine Hat have ended in as many words. “Utter heartbreak. Ican still envision (Kody) Funderburk hitting that 2-run home run to go up 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth (Game 5) in my first year. That still hurts. I’m hoping this one will be a better memory.”

The Mavericks will send Alex Dafoe to Œthe mound for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch in Game 1 at Athletic Park tonight, and Libke says getting the jump on Edmonton will be crucially important.

“We need both, then we can steal one on the road,” said Libke. “They’re perfectly assembled for the field they play at. They hit it into the ground, the turf shoots into the outfield. We play for the big innings and they just chip away.”

While the 38-9 Mavericks boast a significantly better record than the 23-23 Prospects, Hat centre field David Salgueiro says they won’t be looking at Edmonto like an underdog.

“Edmonton has played some pretty good baseball games against us, and Ifeel like sometimes those are the games we probably came out a little flat thinking our talent was going to do the job, but those guys come out to play,” said Salgueiro. “We can beat them, we’ve just got to play the game the right way, play it hard and we should come out on top with the team we have.”

While the Mavericks have found their largest successes by riding big innings to lopsided victories, Salgueiro says they’ve been fine tuning other aspects of their game in anticipation of Edmonton’s small-ball approach.

“Something they like to do at their park is bunt, so today we’re here to work on that and we’re going to try to be ready for their game style,” he said. “I feel like we’re going to have everything working against Edmonton.”

The winner of the Western Division final will advance to take on either the Weyburn Beavers or Regina Red Sox for the WMBLchampionship. Weyburn defeated the Moose Jaw Miller Express in four games to punch their ticket to the Eastern Division final, while Regina knocked off the reigning champion Swift Current 57s in as many games to advance.

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