MEDICINE HAT, AB – Father’s Day ended on a sour note for the Medicine Hat Mavericks on Sunday, returning home from a lengthy road swing to drop a 5-4 decision to the visiting Moose Jaw Miller Express.
The Mavericks’ pitching rebounded after a tough outing Saturday in Weyburn, but the Mavericks bats were only able to muster six hits in the team’s sixth consecutive loss in front of fans at Athletic Park.
Sliding down the division standings over the last six days, head coach Tom Vessella said the team has been struggling to throw the first punch of late.
“I think too often we’re falling behind early and we’re not coming out in the first inning like we have when we usually win ball games,” said Vessella. “We usually get ahead and stay ahead.”
Moose Jaw threw that opening punch in the first inning, scoring Blake Gallagher from second base off a Darrell Doll RBI-single.
That Miller Express lead was doubled to 2-0 one inning later off a sacrifice-fly from Tucker Zdunich, cashing in Geordie McDougall.
Medicine Hat’s bats finally woke up in the third inning with a Freddy Walker RBI double to the outfield, preceding a ground out from Austin Sojka that scored Collin Klingensmith to tie the game at 2-2.
A number of base hits gave Moose Jaw some confidence at the plate shortly after though, posting two more runs off fourth inning ground outs to Eric Marriott and Zdunich to take the lead for good on Sunday.
Nolan Rattai brought the Mavericks to within a single run after a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning, before an Andres Garza RBI-single made it a two-run game for Moose Jaw in the sixth.
Medicine Hat pulled themselves to a 5-4 game in the seventh following a wild pitch that allowed Russell Strilchuck to score, but the Miller Express snuffed out any hopes of a comeback.
One day after throwing up 13 hits in a loss to the Weyburn Beavers, the Mavericks bats were fairly quiet on Sunday with just six hits over nine innings.
Last year’s team home run and RBI leader Colton Wright was held hitless for the third time in his last four games and spoke candidly after the loss about Medicine Hat’s lack of offence at the plate.
“I’ll take the blame for it,” said Wright. “I was a spark plug last year, I got to be a spark plug this year. I got to get myself going, I’ll take full responsibility. I’m the older one here, I’ve been here for three years. I was the leader last year, two years ago, this year I got to be better.”
While the Mavericks bats weren’t much of a factor, Vessella praised the team’s three pitchers that took to the mound Sunday.
Starter Garrett Nicholson pitched into the seventh inning and struck out six batters with just three earned runs against, while relief pitchers Flynn Ridley and Brandon Ponticelli threw two innings of shutout ball.
“Flynn came in, he wasn’t as sharp as he usually is but he put a zero up,” he said. “Ponticelli came in and put a zero up, Garrett got us into the seventh inning. Those are really big things that we have to do.”
Losing all six of their games between Tuesday and Sunday, the now 6-10 Mavericks are five and a half games back of the Okotoks Dawgs for the division lead.
Set to embark on nine consecutive days on the diamond, the Mavericks will use Monday as a rest and reset day.
Five of the next six games will be at the friendly confines of Athletic Park, but Wright said the team needs to make a switch regardless of where they’re playing.
“Everyday is a battle, everyday is a fight to win,” he said. “You got to find a way, it doesn’t matter if we’re playing here or on the road, it doesn’t matter. We can sit here and make excuses that we’ve been on the road for the last two weeks, it doesn’t matter. We got to be better home or away.”
The Mavericks will welcome the Lethbridge Bulls to town on Tuesday night to get their nine games in nine days started, first pitch is planned for 7:05 pm.
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