The Fort McMurray Giants wrapped up a five game homestand to begin the 2018 WMBL season and find themselves having the best start in their young history. The Giants sit in a four way tie for first place in the Western Division with a 3-2 record after splitting a two game set with the Edmonton Prospects.
The Giants shutout the Prospects 4-0 on Tuesday. It was just the second time the Giants had ever shutout a team in their history. The previous, a 1-0 win over the Brooks Bombers last season.
Nik Cardinal took to the mound and provided a solid seven innings for the Giants. Cardinal battled himself out of several jams by either picking up a strikeout or a double play ball. The Bonnyville native is in his third season with the club and after two years of primarily being used out of the bullpen, Manager Pat Riley has given Cardinal the opportunity to start the season in the starting rotation.
“He was getting ahead of hitters all night long which was huge and then he was working his way out of jams. The biggest thing was he was continuing to get ahead of hitters and get the lead off guys out of the inning which was huge. He looked good, he felt good and that’s what we need out of our starting pitchers. I mean I think we have the making of a pretty good starting rotation, six-seven innings, you can’t ask for much more than that,” said Riley.
Jalin McMillan drove in Jonathan Lindau in the bottom of the second inning with his first hit of the season. The Giants added to their lead with two runs in the 5th off a John Loschiavo single and then on a double steal that saw Mike Bowes steal home. The Giants tacked on an insurance run in the 8th inning when Chris Panzarella hit a single to score Bowes from third.
“When you’re getting contributions from your six through nine hitters that shows depth and you have to be able to score at the bottom of your order. We’re still feeling some different things out, all depends on whose in the lineup that day,” said Riley on his teams ability to score runs throughout the line-up.
Wednesday night, the Giants and Prospects battled back and forth and it would be the Prospects hanging on for a 7-6 win. The Giants opened the scoring when Adam North led off the bottom of the second inning belting a first pitch offering over the left field wall.
The Giants held that lead until the wheels fell off in the 5th inning. Giants pitcher Tyler Moskalyk got himself into trouble and the Prospects capitalized scoring five runs in the inning to take a 5-1 lead. They would add two more in the 7th inning off relief pitcher Ryan Dunn.
The Giants slowly chipped away at the lead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the 7th inning but weren’t able to get the tying run. Tristan Richardson and Adam North each went 3-4 on the night as the Giants scattered 16 hits throughout the game, their most in a game so far this season.
“It was a pretty well played game all the way around and their guys did well over there,” said Riley on the loss. “We kind of put some guys in some situations especially some guys coming out of the bullpen late, saw some good stuff and overall, 16 hits and we got some good outings on the mound and did some good things defensively and they just did a little bit more. That’s what it came down to, they had that crooked inning in the 5th when they scored five runs and they were able to hold it down but a lot of good things, tough loss but that’s baseball ” said Riley.
After starting the season with five straight home games, the Giants will now head out for their longest road trip of the season as they will play their next nine games on the road. With a 3-2 start, Riley says starting the season off well was important.
“You want to start the season off strong and you want to play well in front of your home crowd and in your own park. It was a good homestand. You wish to come out 4-1, you wish to come out 5-0 but we didn’t and you have to move forward and you have to learn from it,” said Riley.
The road trip will see the Giants start with a two game set in Edmonton Friday and Saturday before making their annual trip through Saskatchewan. The Giants will take on Swift Current, Weyburn and Moose Jaw before stopping in Medicine Hat for one game on the way home.
“This road trip will see what we’re made of a little bit when we’re really grinding it out and traveling long hours,” said Riley. For most of the team, this will be the longest road trip of their baseball careers with most college teams playing games on a Thursday-Sunday schedule. .
“The guys are excited for it, it’s a different experience for a lot of these guys when you’re on the bus for a long time and then you have to get off the bus and play. We’re excited to see what we can do on the road and let this team gel a little bit and the chemistry can keep moving along.”
The Giants will be back home at Shell Place on June 19th when they open up a four game set with the Medicine Hat Mavericks.