June 15th, 2024

Mavs win four of five, looking for more

By JAMES TUBB on June 11, 2024.

Medicine Hat Mavericks pitcher Cesar Rodriguez celebrates his second strikeout to escape a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning of a 5-1 loss Sunday at Athletic Park to the Weyburn Beavers.--NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The bar of expectations is high for the 2024 Medicine Hat Mavericks.

The Mavs ended a five-game stretch this weekend with four wins, a bounce-back from a two-game set against the Fort McMurray Giants to start the week that had the metaphorical cases lifted on panic buttons.

Medicine Hat outscored their opponents 29-17 in the five-game stretch, led by a 10-1 win Wednesday over the Swift Current 57’s – the runnings of a baseball team that sits in first place of the East division and is primed to maintain that spot.

But it’s how they ended the weekend that will matter the most to them.

Medicine Hat finished the five-game stretch with a 5-1 loss at Athletic Park on Sunday to the Weyburn Beavers. The loss came less than 24 hours after they beat the same Beavers 5-1 on Saturday, in a game described by head coach Kevin Mitchell as a display of winning baseball on the mound, on defence and at the plate.

On Sunday, with 1,111 in the stands, the Mavs left 12 runners on base, the same as the Beavers, but committed four errors that ultimately led to deciding runs in the game.

The Mavs struck out nine times, including twice in the ninth inning as they pushed for a comeback. But there’s no panic buttons being pushed, no reason to be concerned about a team who won all but that one on the weekend.

But the loss Sunday was followed by a longer than usual postgame meeting that Mitchell says had a different tone.

“It was also a little more specific on what we think we didn’t do well, little more technical, so to speak,” Mitchell said. “When things are going really good, you’re not talking technical stuff, because it’s all working. And things are still going very good for us, we’ve got a really good group, but it was just fresh in mind.

“Going into two off days, it was important to us to kind of highlight some things, some areas that we need to be better at moving forward.”

Mitchell says some of those areas highlighted included the Mavs’ approach at the plate, especially after not finding early success in the game.

“We were perhaps not as focused at the plate or not as specific in our approach, a couple balls early that we barrelled didn’t seem to go and that’s when guys have to kind of shift to more of a line-drive approach and try to string some good hits together, which we weren’t able to do,” Mitchell said.

There were moments Sunday where frustrations boiled regarding the strike zone that echoed beyond the players, with the Athletic Park faithful chiming in. Mitchell says blaming outs on perceived missed calls can’t be an alibi for hitters and he says the group knows that. He says the more frustrating part was the dissemblance from the team they’ve witnessed earlier in the young season.

“What we have seen over this first two weeks, what we are capable of, when we go so far away from that, that’s the frustrating thing.”

The Mavs remain in the top-five for team hits (127), third in home runs (15) and sixth in total bases (193). Their pitchers have faced the second-fewest batters in the league (309), meaning they’re not allowing opposing teams to get as many chances at the plate.

It’s a continued production that has a tough loss to Weyburn feeling different than the two to Fort McMurray, Mitchell says. He described the blowouts by the Giants as a gut punch and Sunday’s loss as more of a learning experience for hitters, to take what’s given to them and understanding opposing pitchers better.

The Mavs have a pair of off days before they open a three-game road trip Wednesday, the first of two games at Saskatoon against the Berries. They’ll face the Regina Red Sox on Friday, their first matchup of the season, before returning to Athletic Park on Saturday for the first of a two-game weekend set against the Moose Jaw Miller Express.

It’s a road trip Mitchell says he’s looking forward to as a group and also to get their first look at Saskatoon’s Cairns field.

“I’m kind of excited for a little road trip with the guys, and if we can win four out of five every week, that’s pretty good, we’re going to be just fine,”Mitchell said. “There’s there’s no panic, it’s just unfortunate, wish we would have had different results (Sunday).

“From what I’ve seen early on on social media and stuff, it looks like (Saskatoon) gets a pretty good turnout at their games. We played them well when they were here and hopefully we go in there and stick it to them again. But it’s always fun to play at a new ballpark for everybody, so I’m excited.”

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