The Fort McMurray Giants opened up the home portion of their WCBL schedule this past week with a four game set against the Medicine Hat Mavericks.
The Giants started well picking up an 11-4 win in the home opener Thursday night and followed that up with a 6-5 walk-off win Friday. However, the Mavericks were able to respond with back-to-back wins Saturday (9-4) and Sunday (7-4) to pick up the split.
Thursday night’s home opener saw 892 fans come out to Shell Place on a chilly June evening. The Giants gave their fans lots to cheer about as they scored early and often and Ike Buxton was strong on the mound in his second start of the season. Buxton threw 6 innings, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out three. The Idaho native was given plenty of run support including a bases clearing triple by Peyton Crispin in the 7th inning. Returning Giant BJ Minarcin picked up where he left off last season with a solid night at the plate as he ripped two doubles and led the way with three runs scored in the 11-4 victory.
Friday night it was the Mavericks who jumped on the Giants early when Austin Sojka hit a one out homerun in the top of the 1st inning. The Giants opened up a 4-2 lead in the 3rd inning when they capitalized on a pair of errors by the Mavericks to score four in the frame.
The Mavericks were able to tie the game up at 5-5 with a three run sixth inning after starter Will Langford got himself into a bit of trouble. Keith Manby came on in relief and in his first appearance as a Giant, the White Rock, BC native was lights out. Manby struckout five while only allowing one hit in 3.1 innings. That set the stage for a chance to win the game in the bottom of the 9th inning for the Giants. A lead off single by Minarcin put the winning run aboard for Richard Ortiz. The Puerto Rican cracked a pitch to right field that sailed over the head of the right fielder and off the wall. Minarcin raced around the bases, scoring all the way from 1st base to give the Giants their second straight victory with a 6-5 final.
“It’s just a great approach from him and his first couple at-bats he made the adjustment and got the pitch he wanted late in the game and got it done for us,” said Giants Pitching Coach Michael Gahan.
Saturday’s game saw the Mavericks open up a big lead early and never looked back as they cruised to a 9-4 victory. Fort McMurrayite Tyler Hodder picked up the loss on the mound while shortstop Cam Sanderson gave the fans something to cheer about when he hit a two run homerun in the bottom of the 7th inning.
Sunday afternoon, the Giants clawed their way back, tying the game 4-4 through 7 innings but a disastrous 9th inning defensively gave the Mavericks the 7-4 win. The Giants committed three errors in the inning and eight total in the game. The Mavericks only had four hits in the ball game but were able to take advantage on the Giants poor play in the field.
“The first week of the season is almost like a spring training for us. We had two days with these guys and we had over 33 players here so what we need to do is evaluate and try to get these guys on the same page,” said Giants Hitting Coach Ed Campaniello
The Giants will now head out on the road for their next six games beginning Tuesday night with a rematch against the Mavericks in Medicine Hat. They will then head to Swift Current for a three game set before finishing up in Edmonton against Manager Ray Brown’s former team for a pair of games.
“You don’t want other teams coming in here and taking wins away from you and it’s our job on the road that we go take wins away from them,” said Gahan on the importance of winning at home early in the season and finding a way to be successful on the road.
Your next chance to catch the Giants at Shell Place will be Tuesday June 18th when they host the Edmonton Prospects.