By SEAN ROONEY on July 11, 2019.
A night after losing on the last at-bat to the Western Canadian Baseball League leaders, the Medicine Hat Mavericks were eager to prove they’re going to be a threat the rest of the summer.
At home with 983 fans looking on at Athletic Park Wednesday, the Mavs scored early, got a season-best start on the mound from Garrett Nicholson and beat the Okotoks Dawgs 8-2.
“It was really just pounding the zone, really understanding and taking what I did right in previous outings and trying to repeat it,” said Nicholson, who didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning and finished with six strikeouts, six walks and three hits against through seven. “It definitely helps in our dugout when our fielders are fielding the ball, we’re hitting the ball. It brings up the energy throughout the whole bench and I think that really correlates to how our pitchers do on the mound.”
First-inning RBI hits from Sal Rodriguez, Nolan Rattai and Colton Wright got Nicholson a 4-0 lead to work with, then a fifth-inning throwing error on Dawgs catcher JT Patterson made it 5-0 in the sixth.
Nicholson was initially tagged with a hit from Shay Shanaman in the second, but an inning and a half later it was changed to an error on third baseman Taylor Wright – judged by the hometown scorer as a hot shot that Wright should’ve had.
You bet he noticed.
“I did, I mean stuff like that happens, I didn’t really clue into it as much until it got to the later innings,” said the lefty from Sydney Mines, N.S.
It didn’t wind up being a potential asterisk. Okotoks’ Tristan Peters doubled home one of two Dawgs runs in the top half of the seventh, but Rodriguez added a three-run homer in the seventh to leave no doubt how this one was going to end.
“I didn’t have my best team approaches early (this season), started struggling a little bit and lately I’ve just tried to simplify the approach,” said Rodriguez, who now leads the team with 22 RBI. “It feels fantastic, they’re a great ball club.”
There was certainly a measure of redemption after the Dawgs won 6-5 in their ballpark on a two-out, bottom of the ninth base hit. But the opposing coaches were hardly at each other’s throats afterwards, giving a rare simultaneous interview at home plate after talking ball for 10 minutes together.
“We were hungry, that’s the mark of the kind of team we have,” said Mavs head coach Tom Vessella, whose team is now 15-18 and hosts Lethbridge tonight. “Bad teams are going to fold in that situation, and the really good teams, the really tough guys are going to come out and say that’s not happening again.”
“We’re fans of each other, we’re fans of baseball,” added Okotoks’ Mitch Schmidt, whose Dawgs fell to 25-7, but still lead the Western Division by 8.5 games. “And when you lose a game like that, what do you do as a player, as a coach? You’re going to come out guns ablazing.
“We knew it was coming.”
Left-handed starter Jared Spearing took the loss for Okotoks, giving up seven hits in five innings but picking off two runners at first. Bryce Libke and Hunter Cooper each worked a scoreless inning for Medicine Hat.
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