June 23rd, 2024

Mavs take early edge over Red Sox in WMBL final

By Ryan McCracken on August 13, 2018.

NEWS PHOTO SEAN ROONEY
Medicine Hat Mavericks centre-fielder David Salgueiro hoists bat boy Deklan Willis into the air after scoring a run in Game 1 of the Western Major Baseball League championship series against the Regina Red Sox on Sunday at Athletic Park.


srooney@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNRooney

Go big or go home seemed to be the mantra of the Regina Red Sox Sunday night.

Death by a thousand cuts was the familiar refrain from the host Medicine Hat Mavericks.

The Western Major Baseball League’s Eastern Division representative in the championship finals put three balls over the fence at Athletic Park, but the Western Division winners scored in all but one inning to take the opener of the best-of-five series 8-5.

“That’s baseball, sometimes there’s nobody on and sometimes there’s three on,” said Sox head coach Mitch MacDonald. “We’ll clean some stuff up tomorrow, come back out here and give it another go.”

Easily the underdog against a Mavericks team with the second-best regular season ever recorded in the WMBL, the Red Sox have already upset their division’s top seed in Weyburn and the defending champs from Swift Current. Now they’re looking to win their first crown since 2012, which they incidentally clinched in the Gas City with MacDonald as a player.

“Guys have shown a lot of compete, a lot of willpower not to give in when things weren’t going our way towards the end of the season,” he said. “Regular season rankings don’t mean much. Any team in the WMBL finals is going to be a good team.”

For the Mavericks, whose last title came in 2014, there was no backing down in Game 1. Starting pitcher Alex Dafoe gave up the home runs — two to Brooks Stotler and another to Wesley Moss — but wasn’t necessarily out of control or lacking confidence. His remarkable bare-handed snag of a Jahshua Jones line drive in the fifth was made more impressive by how he casually dropped the ball on the mound after recording the third out of the inning.

For as fearsome as the Sox bats were, taking full advantage of a breeze pushing the ball out to right field early, the Mavs were equally dangerous with two outs. David Salgueiro had an RBI single in the fourth, Carson Johnson singled home a pair in the sixth and Nolan Rattai knocked in another in the seventh.

“Two-out hits are huge for us, they have been all year,” said Johnson, who also had another stellar defensive play, ranging far right from his shortstop position to throw out a runner. “Now we know what we have (against us).”

Medicine Hat scored in every inning but the third, with Zack Gray accounting for their only home run of the night in the fifth. Sox starter Peyton Burks went 3 2/3 innings, while Tyler Bernhardt was saddled with the loss after lasting 2 1/3.

With a crowd of 1,284 enjoying an ideal late summer evening, the hosts responded to every challenge the visitors gave.

“Championship’s on the line right here, both teams came out to play today,” said Mavs relief pitcher Sean Cruz. “Hats off to Dafoe for keeping us in there, he gave us a chance and that’s all we needed.”

Cruz threw the eighth inning, while Ryan Czanstkowski finished the seventh after Dafoe’s 6 1/3. Tyler Shumpert earned a save for Medicine Hat, which loaded up on pitchers for the summer with this exact scenario in mind.

“I wouldn’t say it’s easy, you still get the nerves, which is honestly the best part about it,” said Cruz. “To dial in, do your job, throw up a zero, give you team another at-bat … hopefully we can continue to play well.”

Matt Brooks will start Game 2 for the Mavericks against the Red Sox’s Dylan Bells tonight at Athletic Park.First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.

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