By Lethbridge Herald on June 9, 2015.
Lethbridge Bulls coach Ryan MacDonald isn’t surprised by his team’s 7-1 start to the Western Major Baseball League season — upon reflection, at least.
MacDonald said seven strong pitching starts in eight games has been an important part, with the team’s offence catching up this weekend when they lit up the Okotoks Dawgs for 25 runs and 34 hits in two games (Saturday’s score was erroneously entered into the WMBL website as 16-3 when it was an 18-3 Lethbridge win in Okotoks).
The sterling start to the season was a shocker, he said, but the pitching and a sudden burst of offence has showcased the skill across the roster. MacDonald said any team that gets the same quality of performance from its pitching would also lead the league.
The Bulls’ pitching has been terrific, even with an occasional lapse, the staff has been perfectly managed — according to MacDonald.
“Honestly, I’m not doing too much,” he said. “Guys are giving us quality starts and it seems like everything we do is right, pitching changes at the right time, it’s been good so far.”
The Bulls host the Medicine Hat Mavericks tonight at 7 p.m. at Spitz Stadium.
“I knew the hitting would get there,” said MacDonald, in his second year as the Bulls coach. In his first season, the team went 31-15 and won the regular season title before flaming out in the playoffs. “They got rolling on the weekend, it was incredible, guys were feeding off each other.”
He said the weekend’s calls all paid off, from delays to hit-and-runs. Key to it all is MacDonald’s ability to talk to his players — and listen to them. When a pitcher is tiring, Macdonald said he expects an honest answer, allowing a teammate to get in and for the team to win. It’s worked so far, but even if there are hiccups, MacDonald knows it’s a long season.
“You know, a guy makes a couple of errors, we had with Hutch (Taylor Hutchison) in Okotoks. He commits a couple of errors, boots the ball around a bit and we put Trace Hansen in for him,” said MacDonald. “I don’t want to worry, don’t want him thinking too much about it. It just wasn’t his day. This isn’t college.
“It’s summer ball, it’s a long season and everybody’s going to get a lot of chances.”
The Bulls hosted the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a softball game to benefit the Alzheimer Society on Monday at Spitz Stadium, MacDonald won the home run derby and the Bulls’ pitchers won the game 24-21. The game featured Tyler Wong and Andrew Nielsen from the current crop of Canes while former players like Cam Braes, Jason Ruff, Brent Henke, Mitch Maxwell and Cason Machacek represented as well. The Bulls pitchers built up a lead before batting wrong-handed. the game featured the usual dose of hijinks.
“I think these things are great for the boys,” said MacDonald. “It gets them connecting better with the city, maybe a different set of fans comes out tonight, and it’s just for fun.”
Several Bulls players were out at an area school Monday, reading to kids and hanging out.
“I’m sure the hanging out was more fun, than the reading, some of our guys have some pretty tough accents to understand,” smiled MacDonald. “But they’re a good group and I asked (pitcher Kyle) Olliges if they had fun and he said they did.
“If it brings more fans out, shows people what kind of kids we have here, that can only help us.”
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