MEDICINE HAT, AB – Garrett Nicholson’s first summer as a Medicine Hat Maverick has seen more downs than ups, but on Canada Day he was finally able to put it all together.
Making his fifth start of the season and still searching for his first win, the 6-foot-4 freshman pitched a seven and two-thirds innings gem to guide the Mavericks to a 9-2 victory over the Yorkton Cardinals.
Monday night’s win was a return to consistency for the Mavericks, who swept the Cardinals over the long weekend to earn their first three-game win streak all season.
Medicine Hat was able to get on the bats early on Monday, racing out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning thanks in part to a pair of key doubles from Nolan Rattai and Russell Strilchuck.
In the top of the fifth inning Medicine Hat ran into some trouble with a runner on third base with just one out, however Nicholson was able to force a strikeout and a fly-out to keep Yorkton at bay.
“It’s just a short memory type of thing,” said Nicholson. “Just forgetting about the results that just happened and just focusing on competing, throwing strikes, and just making sure I do the best I can.”
That proved to be fortuitous for the Mavericks, as just minutes later they grew their lead to 4-0 with a sacrifice-fly from newcomer Taylor Wright to score fellow new Maverick P.J. Garcia.
More offence came the way of the Mavericks in the bottom of the sixth inning starting with another sacrifice-fly to centre field from Cameron Pope to cash in Rattai from 90 feet away.
Errors caught up to the Cardinals later in the sixth, with Strilchuck scoring off a miscue from Yorkton’s Trenton Lee to make it a 6-0 game.
Medicine Hat truly broke the game open one inning later however, adding another three runs with two of those coming from a clutch single up the middle from veteran catcher Colton Wright to score a pair.
After a pair of singles and a fly-out to left field, Nicholson saw his evening come to an end in the eighth inning with zero runs given up while striking out four.
“I felt really good,” said Nicholson. “Once I got into a rhythm and kind of got a feel of my pitches I was on a roll from there. Just really making sure I pound the zone and give my fielders a chance, which I did today.”
That zero would be quickly erased on the scoreboard however, as Nicholson was charged with runs from the two men on after reliever Derek Eubanks gave up a pair of singles that got Yorkton on the board.
In the top of the ninth though, Eubanks was able to get Zachary Taylor to ground into the game-ending 6-4-3 double play to send the Canada Day spectators home happy.
Garcia said Nicholson set the tone on Monday, which made it easier for hitters like him to relax at the plate.
“It all started with Garrett,” said Garcia. “He came in the first inning and got us through the inning. After that, we just came in the first inning, got some people on base, scored some runs, and never looked back.”
Canadian Colton Wright led the way on Canada Day with two RBIs in the win for Medicine Hat, while Garcia also had a strong night at the plate with four hits.
Along with it being Medicine Hat’s first three-game win streak of the year, Monday’s victory also marked the team’s first series sweep of the summer.
Although he just joined the team last Wednesday, Wright said it’s good to see the team get back on track in such an emphatic way.
“I didn’t know that was the first three-game win streak because it’s the only three games I’ve played so far,” said Wright. “But, it’s definitely exciting coming down the stretch here to get some momentum going for the rest of the year.”
Officially reaching the midway point of the 2019 WCBL season and clawing for a playoff spot, Nicholson said the 12-16 Mavericks are finally starting to live up to their potential.
“Guys are just really starting to loosen up a little more,” he said. “When we went on that eight-game skid there, guys were kind of hesitant. And, I think guys are really starting to loosen up, have more fun, just really focusing on making the plays step by step, and not looking at the bigger picture.”
Earning a day off on Tuesday, the Mavericks will now get ready for a short road trip to Swift Current on Wednesday to battle the 57s.
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