June 13th, 2024

Big inning sinks Mavericks

By Sean Rooney on August 8, 2018.

Nolan Rattai throws to first baseman Zack Gray as the Medicine Hat Mavericks play the Edmonton Prospects in a playoff game Tuesday at Athletic Park.--NEWS PHOTO SEAN ROONEY


They say hitting is infectious.

So when the Edmonton Prospects got a couple in Tuesday’s playoff game against the host Medicine Hat Mavericks, the bug spread.

An eight-hit, seven-run third inning propelled the Prospects to a 7-6 win at Athletic Park, earning the exact road split in the best-of-five Western Division finals they’ve enjoyed the past two years.

“We’ve just been preaching as a team for everybody to have good AB’s, just grind,” said Prospects infielder Anthony Cusati, who fouled off four tough pitches from Hat starter Matt Brooks before sending the fifth into left field for a key 2-RBI double in the big inning. “I was trying to put something in play, got lucky and dropped one in there.

“Sometimes you have one big inning and it’s enough to win.”

Third baseman Louie Canjura’s throwing error also factored in to the frame, in which Edmonton sent 12 batters to the plate.

It was the most runs the Mavs have given up in an inning all year. They’ve only given up seven runs in a whole game seven times, and the Prospects account for four.

“They were just getting weak little hits off the ends of barrels and off the handle,” said Mavericks relief pitcher Ryan Czanstkowski. “You can’t really do much about that. You’ve got to tip your hat (to at-bats like Cusati’s).”

With hordes of bugs descending in the ninth inning, the Mavs made it close. With two on, Zack Gray hit a dribbler that shortstop Zane Takhar bobbled trying to turn a double play. A run scored to make it 7-5, then it became a one-run game when Nolan Rattai beat out another double play ball.

Canjura then grounded out to end it.

The teams head to Edmonton for games Wednesday and Thursday, with a potential Game 5 set for Friday back in Medicine Hat. Jumpei Akunama is slated to start Game 3 Wednesday for the Mavs against the Prospects’ Connor Burns.

With a crowd of 1,296 hoping to see their team take a stranglehold on the series, Zack Gray singled home David Salgueiro in the first inning. But left-handed pitcher Edgar Barclay kept the dangerous Mavs bats in check the next three innings, thanks in part to a couple diving grabs by right-fielder Daylen Calicdan.

Throwing on his 21st birthday, Czanstkowski did well to hold the Prospects scoreless and give his side a chance. He went four scoreless, striking out four against two hits.

“We have faith in ourselves, I knew we’d come back and score some runs,” he said. “We’ve got to keep our heads cool, play baseball and have some fun.”

Barclay went 5 2/3 innings, and it looked like good news for the Mavericks when Nolan Rattai knocked a two-out, two-run single off him in the fifth to trim the lead to three runs.

But Gray couldn’t deliver the next inning with the bases loaded and reliever Michael Gahan on the mound.

Gahan then went the rest of the way, giving up one hit in 3 1/3 innings.

“Any time you’re playing against people like that, an error is big,” said Prospects coach Ray Brown. “The third inning, scoring the seven runs was big.”

History doesn’t bode well for Medicine Hat these next two games, as they’re 0-4 in Edmonton the past two playoff seasons. But it’s also a different team with greater depth.

“Even when it happened guys were running back saying it’s a long game,” said Murphy. “With the offence we have we can put up five runs in an inning.

“Try to forget about this one as quickly as possible.”

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