June 21st, 2024

Mavericks clinch WMBL title with Game 5 win over Regina

By Sean Rooney on August 17, 2018.

NEWS PHOTO SEAN ROONEY
Medicine Hat Mavericks pitching coach Kyle Swannack lifts the Harry Hallis Memorial Trophy on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018 at Athletic Park after the Mavericks beat the Regina Red Sox in Game 5 of the Western Major Baseball League finals 8-2.


srooney@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNRooney

With the biggest crowd at Athletic Park in a quarter century cheering them on, the Medicine Hat Mavericks delivered a Western Major Baseball League title Thursday night.

An 8-2 win over the Regina Red Sox gave the host side a 3-2 series victory, spurred on by a sold-out crowd of 2,200, including 200 standing-room-only seats but not including at least 300 who watched from a berm beyond the outfield fence.

Not since the World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays visited the park in 1994 had there been such a crowd to watch baseball in Medicine Hat.

“I’m speechless,” said winning pitcher Jaymon Cervantes, already soaked in champagne and beer in a raucous celebration. “There was the berm, 2,000-plus here, people watching online, it’s awesome. I’ve never done anything like this.”

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After winning the first two games at home Sunday and Monday, the Mavs were taken to the limit by a determined Red Sox team that claimed its own home wins Tuesday and Wednesday.

That set up the last Game 5 in WMBL history, as the league — which will also change its name to the Western Canadian Baseball League — will move to a longer regular season and best-of-three playoff format in 2019.

“It was a really good series,” said Sox head coach Mitch MacDonald. “Coming down from two games to nothing and being able to force a Game 5 says a lot about our guys.

“Hats off to Medicine Hat. It’s tough to win in the WMBL and the team that wins in the end deserves it.”

MacDonald played on the 2012 team that won a title at Athletic Park. They couldn’t do it this time, as the hosts drew on the fervent energy from their fans, never trailing on a warm summer night.

“Winning’s the best feeling in the world, every day I wake up trying to find a way to win,” said Colton Wright, who was instrumental in getting teammates to know each other before the college-age team even began play. “I’m so proud of these guys, they worked so hard

“I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Wright hit a solo home run in the fourth inning, but the real damage came in a four-run third.

Zack Gray hit a ball that right-fielder Jahshua Jones dove for and missed, winding up with an RBI triple off starting pitcher Peyton Burks. Reliever Tyler Bernhardt then walked two batters to load the bases and threw two wild pitches.

“We came out with a locked-in attitude and it showed on the scoreboard,” said Gray. “When you’re having quick innings on defence and putting up runs, it puts the other team in a hole.”

Depth played a factor too. Cervantes, the fifth pitcher in the team’s rotation, didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning and went seven frames, giving up five hits and one run while striking out six.

“It was our last game of the year, I wasn’t going to let our seniors go home without a win,” said Cervantes. “We needed it so I did what I needed to get it done.”

One of those seven seniors, Calgary’s Jaxson Hooge, tried to put into perspective what might be his last time playing competitively.

“It’s the best feeling ever,” said Hooge, one of a half-dozen returning players to the Mavs lineup this summer. “Putting up that amount of runs early like that, knowing they don’t have much in the pen was huge for us. We just got all the momentum and then we kept it.”

Matt DeNeau hit a home run to break the shutout in the fifth but Jordan Dray drove in hometown second baseman Nolan Rattai with a double in the bottom half of the frame to restore momentum.

Rattai again scored on a Dray single in the seventh.

Junior Pimentel and Tyler Shumpert pitched the last two innings, Shumpert giving up a Wesley Moss RBI double in the ninth before getting Jahshua Jones to fly out to centre-fielder David Salgueiro to end it.

Medicine Hat lifted the Harry Hallis Memorial Trophy for the third time, with the other WMBL titles coming in 2003 and 2014. Shortstop Carson Johnson was named playoff MVP.

The Mavericks went 38-9 in the regular season, the second-best mark the league has ever seen, then beat Lethbridge and Edmonton to reach the finals. Regina, 26-21 in the regular season, upset defending champion Swift Current and Weyburn in their half of the post-season draw.

On this night, however, it was the Mavs and their fans whooping it up, at one point singing O Canada while perched on the fence in front of the scoreboard.

“Before the game I’ve never had so many emotions, I thought I was going to pass out,” said Rattai, who went 3-for-5 with two runs. “It was a great feeling though. This is what we live for.”

Note: This story has been updated to correct that the Blue Jays were here in 1994, not 1993 as originally stated.

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