The Medicine Hat Mavericks are on the verge of their first WCBL finals since 2018.

The Mavericks won 2-1 to take Game 1  on Friday night in Moose Jaw as they lead the Miller Express 1-0 in their best of three East divison finals series.

The win gives the Mavericks a chance to punch their ticket to the WCBL finals for the first time since they won the championship in 2018.

Medicine Hat led Moose Jaw 1-0 for five innings Friday until the Miller Express tied the game at 1-1 in the eighth. Third basemen Ranciel Ventura scored on a wild pitch in the top of the ninth to give the Mavericks their final lead.

Mavericks head coach Tyler Jeske said the win showed him the resiliency of the team and their ability to dig in.

“When you’re looking at a three game series, Game 1 is critical and the pitching performances we got from Garett Nicholson, Ethan Bromley and Matt Krall, tip your cap, they were outstanding,” Jeske said. “Without them, it’s a 2-1 ballgame and I thought Matt Krall there in the ninth inning was as cool, calm and collected as he’s been all year.”

Garret Nicholson started the game for Medicine Hat and worked through multiple jams with runners in scoring position to keep Moose Jaw off the board. The Mavericks took their lead in the third inning when centre fielder Braden DeSonia knocked in catcher Zach Stark from third base.

Nicholson pitched four innings with three strikeouts while only allowing five hits. The big left handed pitcher said he got a lot of confidence getting the ball to start another Game 1 of a series. Nicholson was on the mound in the Mavericks first game against the Regina Red Sox in their East division semi-finals series.

“It tells me that I’m one of the go to guys on this staff and just coming out each and every day, preparing physically and mentally to get back on that bump,” Nicholson said. “I’m pretty proud of the team and how we’ve worked and how we have come together, especially in big games like this. Hopefully we keep it rolling tomorrow.”

Ethan Bromley took over in the top of the fifth and pitched his way through 3.2 innings with three strikeouts. It was his first appearance in the playoffs, he said he was proud to contribute.

“I was trying to be energetic on the bench and helping anyway I could so being able to actually throw the ball for the boys was awesome,” Bromley said. “It was a good environment here, I felt the pressure a little bit but I had the guys behind me with great defense and was just trying to throw the curveball in and see if they could hit it.”

The Mavericks received strong defensive play in the win with diving catches in the outfield from left fielder Christian Rush and right fielder David Dell. Jeske said that set the tone for them each time.

“Some big time catches to lead off innings and keep that leadoff guy off base and that sets the tone for the rest of the day,” Jeske said. “I think back to you know a month ago where we talked about having a lot of younger position players who don’t have a ton of experience. So we need to continue to find ways to get better step by step, day by day and right now it feels like this is awesome because we’re getting  an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of that labor.”

Jeske said seeing veteran guys like Nicholson and Bromley pitch as well as they did emphasized the strength of their leadership.

“It all comes back to the leadership we have within the clubhouse and it’s August 12, it’s been a long summer. This was game 59 on the summer, and it’s tough to stay motivated stuff and stay up,” Jeske said. “But at the end of the day, it’s playoff baseball, and tomorrow night, we have the opportunity to play playoff baseball, in Medicine Hat in front of our home fans. With a 1-0 series lead and an opportunity to clinch the series and move on.”

After Moose Jaw tied the game in the eighth, Krall took over on the mound to get the final four outs of the game to secure the win. The 20-year-old was also tasked with getting the final outs in the Mavericks Game 2 win against the Red Sox. He says he feels good about where the Mavericks are at but isn’t looking past the Miller Express.

“I feel really good but my mom always says, don’t never underestimate opponent, rule number one,” Krall said. “You have to come out like it’s 0-0 no matter what.”

Being on the verge of the WCBL finals is nothing new to Nicholson and four other Mavericks who lost in the West division finals in 2019. Nicholson, who pitched in the final game of that series, said he’s excited for the opportunity to win.

“It was a tough one,” Nicholson said. “But I think just understanding what we need to do tomorrow to be prepared to win, that’s going to be the most important thing for us.”

Game 2 gets underway at Atheltic Park at 7:05 p.m. Jeske said he is beyond excited to be back at the Park and potentially moving on to the WCBL finals.

“Every day that we get to wake up and go to the baseball field excites me, every day is Monday in this game,” Jeske said. “Earlier in the season when we were struggling I kept reiterating., we’re 0-0, we’re 0-0, it doesn’t matter that we won a couple games now. We’ve won three games in a row before. Now the challenge is, hey, can we keep our focus. Can we keep this intensity and have our longest winning streak of the season.”