June 23rd, 2024

Mavs focused on return to success

By JAMES TUBB on June 5, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Mavericks catcher Michael Quick reaches out to tag a runner called safe at home plate in the Mavs' 13-0 loss Monday at Athletic Park to the Fort McMurray Giants.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The early highs of the Medicine Hat Mavericks’ season have fallen away a tad after a two-game home stand against the Fort McMurray Giants.

After a 4-1 record in the first five games of the season, scoring 52 runs and knocking nine home runs, the Mavs hit a rough patch with a pair of blow-out losses. A 16-5 loss Sunday left a desire to bounce back but was followed up with a 10-0 shutout loss Monday.

It’s a pair of losses that brings the Mavs record to 4-3, still good for second in the WCBL’s East division, but a set of games that leaves a bad taste in the mouth after such an electric start to the season.

Head coach Kevin Mitchell says only time will tell whether the two games against Fort McMurray were just a blip in the road or a sign of something more.

“We have won gloriously and we have lost gloriously in this early part of the season,” Mitchell said. “I’d like to think the former is more of what we’re going to do this summer, I believe that. But in the moment, all we have is the sample size we’ve had, so these last few games have been tough to watch.

“I think we’re much better than what we’ve done the last few games and I think the guys feel that as well. But it’s going to take everybody pulling in the right direction, in the same direction, to get it back where we need to be.”

The differences from their wins to losses start offensively. They beat up the Saskatoon Berries and shut out the Swift Current 57’s after a season-opening split with the Moose Jaw Miller Express. They averaged 10 runs throughout the first five games but have been limited to 2.5 per-game since.

In all three of their losses, the Mavs have surrendered the first run of the game and have been susceptible to giving up ‘the big inning’, allowing five or more runs in one frame in four of the 25 innings in losses. The most outstanding inning came Sunday, after tying the game up at 4-4 the Mavs allowed 12 runs in the seventh inning.

Mitchell’s no stranger to an early season miscue with the Mavs. The 2023 team could not get their record over the .500 plateau until after the all-star break. Comparing the teams and what he learned from those early struggles, Mitchell says one of the 2023 Mavs’ greatest qualities was tenacity, and he’s still looking for that this season.

“I don’t know yet that this group has that, I’d like to think they do,” Mitchell said. “That comes with time as these guys get to know each other better and as we get deeper into the season. It’s tough to compare this year to last year in that sense. If we do find that grit, that tenacity with this group, that’d be a great combination with the talent that we have here.”

The Mavs had an off day Tuesday ahead of their road contest tonight at Lethbridge against the Bulls. It kicks off a five-game stretch for the Mavs, who face Swift Current at AP Thursday, before hitting the road Friday to face the Brooks Bombers and wrapping up with a two-game set Saturday and Sunday at home against the Weyburn Beavers.

Mitchell hopes the day off lets players clear their heads, lightens things up and helps put this two-game blunder behind them.

“Our schedule is really favourable for the first month of the season,” Mitchell said. “Including these last few games, Fort Mac was coming at the end of a long trip and we didn’t take care of business, unfortunately. But it’d be nice to get on the road and use a day off coming after that, it’s probably a good thing.”

The tough losses also come at an awkward time for the Mavs. Not only because they occurred at Athletic Park – no team likes to be blown out in front of their fans – but it aligned with a new wave of players joining the team as well as assistant coach Cody Henderson, who was on the bench starting with Sunday’s loss.

Mitchell says the influx of new players had no negative effect on the team and he says it was unfortunate that those games were the first in-person showings of a team who has had and still has a lot of excitement and expectations surrounding them.

“Baseball is a hell of a game, and sometimes you can’t make too much of it,” Mitchell said. “Trying to draw correlations can help ease the brain. But oftentimes, it’s just that, it’s just an exercise in futility.”

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