July 14th, 2024

Mavs come out on top in dramatic weekend

By JAMES TUBB on June 18, 2024.

The Medicine Hat Mavericks celebrate infielder Johnny Vulcano's walk off hit Saturday at Athletic Park to beat the Moose Jaw Miller Express 13-12 in the 10th inning.--NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB


The Medicine Hat Mavericks put on a weekend of theatrics at Athletic Park.

The Mavs collected a pair of wins Saturday and Sunday in a two-game set against the Moose Jaw Miller Express that put two-part movie series such as the Terminator, Dune and The Incredibles to shame.

A multi-comeback, 13-12 walk-off win Saturday night was followed up by an all-around 6-1 win Sunday that started with an episode of the Ump Show and finished with excellence on the mound.

It’s a showcase of the Mavs’ ability to capitalize on high moments this season, and potentially a new showing of an ability to not slum but rebound off the low points.

“This weekend taught us we’re never out,” assistant coach Tory Nelson said Sunday. “These lows would get low and they stay low, this weekend we did a really good job of staying in that medium and just trusting each other. Trusting the guy behind you to keep doing their job.”

Saturday’s win saw the Mavs fall down 12-6 to the Miller Express in the seventh inning before they rattled off six unanswered runs and held Moose Jaw at bay until Johnny Vulcano could knock in a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to score the winning run.

The Mavs have struggled in games where they allow the big inning, losing any momentum and eventually falling to a bloated score. That was on display in Friday’s 9-2 loss to Regina. The Red Sox capitalized on a few questionable calls with the game tied at 2-2 and poured on seven runs in the eighth to run away with the win.

When Saturday’s ballooned inning came, instead of faltering, the Mavs answered back – a sign of the team learning who they are, head coach Kevin Mitchell says.

“There’s a developing maturity about this group and (Saturday) was obviously a huge step in the right direction in that regard,” Mitchell said. “In terms of highs and lows, that’s about as high and low as a game can get barring something else crazier happening in the ninth.

“We’re still searching for that kind of homeostasis.”

Catcher Nick Thibodeau led the offence Saturday with two hits, two runs scored and four RBIs. Reliever Dylan Runge stole the show with 3.1 innings out of the bullpen. He recorded the final out of the blowup seventh frame, allowing two unearned runs, before shutting the door in the last three innings of the game, not allowing Moose Jaw to record a hit.

He described it as the craziest game he’s ever been part of.

“Just the battle back, twice in one game was insane,” Runge said. “I was going in there when I went in, down six runs, I was just going to try and put up zeros. Then we came back and it turned into a whole new ballgame. It was so much fun.”

Sunday’s game had dramatics outside the Mavericks control, but they carried the show on themselves.

After a quick three outs in the top of the first inning from starter Aidan Lenzen, the Mavs got a runner on base with a single from Marshall Burke, who extended his hit streak to 17 games. He moved up to second base on a wild pitch and appeared to score on a single from Brody Gardner.

Burke was called out at the plate by umpire Marcel Rossetto who then quickly ejected Mitchell, without an obvious warning, when he questioned the call. The ejection was his first in his two years in the WCBL.

The Mavs responded and turned the channel from the Ump Show to their own performance, putting up 13 hits and limiting Moose Jaw to just three knocks.

Jordan Phillips scored twice on wild pitches, part of a four-hit day. Thibodeau notched another two RBIs on three hits and the combination of Lenzen, Evan Gant and Jon Shields held Moose Jaw to a total of 10 base runners.

Phillips liked how the Mavs handled the early adversity and didn’t let the umpires distract the focus.

“It’s good to not be able to get down from it and to start blaming the umpires because of how we’re performing after that,” Phillips said. “It’s better that we came up from that and didn’t let it get on us, and we just almost bounced back from it. We let it give us energy, not so much put us down. We did a good job of doing that.”

Following Mitchell’s ejection Sunday, Nelson took over the head coaching duties and was credited with his first win as the bench boss.

After an off day Monday, the Mavs head into the busiest week they’ve seen, six games in six days starting tonight at Weyburn against the Beavers. Nelson says the momentum from the theatrical weekend will serve them well as they look to keep rolling.

“The last couple of times we’re going into an off day we’ve lost, so this is going to help the guys get better sleep and just just relax a bit more,” Nelson said. “Hopefully we can find this middle ground here next week, knowing we can do it and we’re going to have some tough games coming up.

“We didn’t have a whole bunch of pitchers (working) today and I think it’s going to help a lot for guys to settle back down and be ready to go again.”

The Mavs have a two-game set at Moose Jaw on Wednesday and Thursday and return to Athletic Park on Friday to face the Swift Current 57’s. They are on the road again Saturday against the Lethbridge Bulls before the Sylvan Lake Wranglers come to town on Sunday.

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