February 18th, 2019

Wild pitch forces deciding Game 5

By Sean Rooney on August 10, 2018.

Medicine Hat Mavericks right-fielder Zack Gray puts a ball into play during Game 4 of the Western Major Baseball League's semifinal series at Re/Max Field in Edmonton Thursday. -- PHOTO COURTESY Breiann Smailes /RBB MARKETING AND PHOTOGRAPHY RBBPHOTO.COM


Aug. 10 has not been kind to the Medicine Hat Mavericks.

Each of the past three years it’s the date on which their season has come to an end.

It looms large again after the Edmonton Prospects dramatically forced Game 5 in their Western Major Baseball League semifinals.

The Prospects beat the Mavs 3-2 in Edmonton in 10 innings Thursday, Anthony Cusati scoring the winning run on a wild pitch by reliever Barry Caine.

That tied the best-of-five series 2-2 and sets up another Aug. 10 matchup, 7:05 p.m. at Athletic Park.

“I feel like every we time we play there it does (end weirdly),” said Mavericks head coach Andrew Murphy via cellphone. “It came down to something weird happening and it happened to us.”

Starting pitcher Jared Libke threw Game 4 of the second-round series for the third year in a row, going 7 2/3 innings but giving up the tying run with two outs in the eighth. AJ Nitzschke singled home Eric Crain, setting up a tense finish.

After Caine walked Cusati to lead off the 10th, there were runners at first and third with two out and a 1-2 count on Zane Takhar when Caine’s pitch got past catcher Reed Odland.

With a crowd of only 1,242 at 9,200-seat Re/Max Field on one of the hottest nights in Edmonton’s history — the mercury topped 34 degrees Celsius — the home team struck early as they did in Game 3. Cusati continued to wield a dangerous bat, doubling home Tony Olson in the first inning to open the scoring.

Odland responded in the third, jacking a home run to tie the game.

“He struggled yesterday a little bit, I think he was trying to do too much,” said Murphy. “He finally got a pitch he could drive and did some damage to it.”

Shortstop Carson Johnson reached on an error to lead off the next inning, then scored when Sal Rodriguez doubled off Prospects starter Josh Sieglitz with two outs.

Again both teams’ defences rose to the challenge. In the sixth inning Medicine Hat’s Jaxson Hooge threw out Nitzschke at home. But the Prospects had some key plays as well, notably catching league stolen base leader David Salgueiro trying to swipe third in the eighth frame. In the ninth, first baseman Beaux Guilbeau made a diving out on a Louie Canjura bunt attempt that killed another would-be rally.

Braedan Alleman threw a remarkable 6 1/3 innings in relief of Sieglitz for the Prospects, though his league profile showed no prior games played in the WMBL — an unusual situation in the college-age wood bat league. As of press time it wasn’t known if Alleman was even allowed to be added to the Prospects roster at such a late point in the season, or if he’d been on their roster all along but never used.

“They put in a kid who I don’t think has thrown for them all summer, I don’t know where he came from,” said Murphy, noting that Alleman previously played at the University of British Columbia and is known by many players on both teams. “He did a good job of keeping us at bay.”

It all sets up a deciding fifth game in the third year in a row the two teams have met in the WMBL’s semifinal round. With the forecast high at 39 C in the Gas City and swarms of mayflys having descended on Athletic Park in the late innings of the past few games, there could yet be more twists and turns before someone advances to the league finals.

Murphy, talking from the team bus moments after the loss and the beginning of a long ride home, wasn’t worried about his team’s state of mind.

“They’re obviously pretty upset, but after the past couple losses we’ve had, they think about it for 20 minutes and they’ll be over it by the time it’s time to eat,” he said.

Murphy will start Jaymon Cervantes in Game 5, with the Prospects expected to start Rich Walker, who they’ve said has been sidelined with an illness all series. Walker threw three complete game shutouts this summer including a perfect game.

Regina’s Red Sox forced another Game 5 Friday by beating the Weyburn Beavers 10-4. Matt DeNeau’s second-inning home run kick-started the Red Sox in front of 540 home fans at Currie Field, then Jahshua Jones hit a three-run shot in the fourth. Kyle Wilson struck out eight in seven innings for the win.

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