July 17th, 2024

Mavs hold on for 8-7, weather-delayed win Friday

By James Tubb on June 22, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Mavericks pitcher Evant Gant celebrates a strikeout for the final out of the Mavs' 8-7 win Friday at Athletic Park over the Swift Current 57's.

A wild, wild night of baseball was played Friday at Athletic Park.

The Medicine Hat Mavericks held on through an hour weather delay and a Swift Current comeback attempt, picking up an 8-7 win over the division rival.

Medicine Hat led 6-2 heading into a fourth inning delay due to thunder, lightning and rain. They added a couple more runs that proved to be decisive as Swift Current mounted a comeback with a run in the fifth and four in the ninth. With the bases loaded and a full count, it was Mavs pitcher winning a 10-pitch duel to preserve the win.

“I got behind early in the count, was a 3-1 count early but seeing as I was able to pound the zone zone after that and get back in there. he did foul a couple balls off but I  just keep fighting, fighting and fighting,” Gant said. “Making sure you’re winning the baseball game, winning each pitch and you can do the job.”

It wasn’t quite how head coach Kevin Mitchell had drawn up the win, especially after a six-run first inning. But the Mavs’ skipper liked how his team battled until the end.

“We obviously came out and swung it really well in the first inning and that’s always great to see but you got to keep going,” Mitchell said. “Baseball games, you have to get all 27 outs and we kind of had a lull there in the middle and they crawled back into it. Fortunately after the delay, Jack Novak came in and did a hell of a job throwing four innings and that was huge, that’s the difference.

“The fact that we won is great. The fact that the ninth inning went the way it did, obviously you want it to be cleaner than that, but it’s not the worst thing in the world for this group. We still have a lot of baseball left to play and games like this are important to the team and how they deal with stuff.

“I’m really proud of Evan coming in during a really tough spot. He showed some maturity and some grit tonight, that was really good to see and that’ll serve him well going forward.”

Medicine Hat opened the scoring with six runs in the first frame.

Marshall Burke got on base on an error and Brody Gardner moved him over on a single. Jordan Phillips drew a seven pitch walk to load the bases for catcher Nick Thibodeau. He drove the third pitch he saw over the Athletic Park fences for the grand slam.

They added to the lead with an RBI double from Evan Morrison and an RBI single from Blake Dale for the 6-0 advantage.

Swift Current got a pair of runs in the third inning off starter Braeden Davis, the only blemishes of his start.

The 57’s head coach Jason Veyna was ejected in the fourth inning while arguing an error by Davis on a pickoff attempt that was ruled a no play becuase the umpire had not restarted play after a foul ball.

The rain delay in the bottom of the fourth ended his night, with the two runs (one earned) allowed on two hits, three walks with five strikeouts.

After the weather subsided, Jack Novak took over on the mound and worked four innings, allowing a lone run in the fifth inning to send the Mavs off to the ninth with an 8-3 lead. Novak recorded six strikeouts with just one hit against in his outing.

Medicine Hat added to their lead, with Micah Dvorak scoring on a wild pitch in the sixth and Thibodeau hitting a solo home run for his second of the game and seventh on the season. He ended the night with five RBIs, tying him for second place in the WCBL with 32 RBIs.

Jon Shields took over on the mound to start the ninth inning and walked the first four batters he faced, making it an 8-4 game when Gant took over.

The 57’s hit a two-run double before Gant recorded the first out of the inning with a strikeout. Back-to-back Swift Current walks brought in another run, turning the Mavs lead into a one-run advantage with only one out.

Gant worked an 11-pitch strikeout before the final batter came to the plate. He fell behind early, working his way back into 3-2 count before four straight foul balls had the remaining fans sitting on the edge of their seats. Gant says he enjoyed the one-on-one battle with the batter.

“Every time I see it, I know it’s a 3-2 count, I know that run on  third is the game tying run, I’m thinking just keep doing the same thing,” Gant said. “He’s going to put the ball in play, I know I got boys behind me that’ll do the job before the ball gets put in play.”

He didn’t give his defenders the chance, getting the swing and miss for the third strike and final out to preserve the 8-7 win. Gant recorded all outs in the ninth in strikeout fashion, allowing the lone hit and two walks.

Enjoying his postgame slice of pepperoni pizza, Mitchell says the win gives the Mavs a much-needed lesson with 35 games left on the schedule.

“It’s never over until it’s over, it takes what it takes and it’s not always pretty, that’s just the nature of this game,” Mitchell said. “We had just enough tonight to come out on top and I’m proud of them.”

The Mavs (13-8) are on the road Saturday, facing the Lethbridge Bulls. They host the Sylvan Lake Gulls on Sunday at Athletic Park.

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