Never-say-die Mavericks, Jess Lockwood continue to inspire

Abe Winter
Star Columnist

You’re not likely to find the next Nolan Ryan or Clayton Kershaw on the roster of the Miles City Mavericks.

But, like players of the mold of Ryan and Kershaw, you won’t find anyone on the Mavericks roster who gives up in a game, not even when they are trailing 16-2. (Yes, I know, Ryan and Kershaw have never trailed by 14 and still stayed in the game).

So there was no clamoring to get on the bus, order pizzas and return home from Gillette, Wyoming, last Sunday afternoon.

Instead, it was rally time — a full game of rallying — against Douglas, another Wyoming team that had been beaten 9-7 by the Mavericks three days earlier.

After scoring two runs in the bottom of the first inning to cut the deficit to 10-2, the Mavericks surrendered another crooked number in the second to fall behind by 14.

Not to worry. Four in the second and one in each of the third and fourth made it 17-8. (Douglas added its final run in the fourth). Then came a seven-spot in the fifth, making it 17-15.

Now there was hope.

But neither team scored in the sixth and Douglas was blanked in the top of the seventh. So it remained for Douglas to register three outs before giving up two to tie or three to lose.

Never mind the tie. Douglas managed just one out before back-to-back doubles by Deven Doughty and Braden Marum plated the three runs needed for a remarkable 18-15 victory. 

The final rally started with a single by Kip Krebsbach, who pitched two scoreless innings to record the victory, and a hit batter (Jess Bellows). One out later came the decisive doubles and the team’s 20th victory against 17 losses this season.

Those numbers aren’t that impressive, just above the .500 mark, but it was enough to impress my morning coffee buddies.

Coach Jake Mills actually was ejected from the game in the first inning after complaining about the umpire’s strike zone. It was his first-ever ejection, but he wasn’t complaining.

Instead, he watched from the stands and certainly was happy about what he saw.

“It was cool to watch from a different perspective,” Mills said. “But any time they come up to hit they can put up a crooked number.

“There never was a time when I thought this game was over.”

I usually follow the games of the Mavericks and Outlaws Varsity on my mobile phone or iPad.

“I hope you watched the end of this game,” Sue Bellows, the mother of two boys on the team, said in a text moments after it ended. Later, she added, “These boys played with heart today.”

Surely they did, but I’m still amazed.

As the late sportscaster Jack Buck once said: “I can’t believe what I just saw.”

Okay, maybe it doesn’t compare to the World Series home run Kirk Gibson hit in 1988 for the Dodgers.

Still, it was something to watch — even electronically.



— It’s gratifying that a school the size of Custer County District High School — 521 students in 2016-17 — finally found a replacement for athletic director Mike Ryan.

Dominick Vergara will step into a somewhat strange situation with new coaches in several sports. But it’s less than a month before athletes report for training for fall sports, so it’s good to have an AD.

One thing I believe after talking to Vergara is that the coaches will have his backing.

— Those who attended the final day of racing at the Bucking Horse Sale at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds saw jockey Gilbert Rivera take a vicious fall down the stretch near the front of the grandstand.

Rivera was taken by ambulance to Holy Rosary Hospital in Miles City and then to a hospital in Billings. However, surgery wasn’t performed on his broken shoulder until 10 days later. He also suffered a dislocated arm that didn’t require surgery.

Rivera is recovering in South Dakota and at age 56 no decision has apparently been made on his return to competing in horse races.

— How about that Jess Lockwood! He made an immediate impression in the bull riding at the Calgary Stampede, the great rodeo with $2 million in prize money.

After his first performance, he was ecstatic.

“It’s the coolest thing ever to step out onto that chute and see this whole crowd. It’s just incredible,” he said on the Stampede Blog. “I’ve seen pictures of this place, but to soak it in, in person … well, it’s the Calgary Stampede, the one and only.”

The Volborg cowboy — all 5-foot-5 inches and 130 pounds of him — came up with impressive scores of 87.5 and 89 to lead Pool A of the bull riding.

He was thrown in his third ride and got stepped on by the bull, but maintained the lead in his pool before his Monday ride that produced a 90.5 score.

That got him into the single-performance finals with $100,000 plus a share of a $1 million at stake.

I’ve always maintained that the three most dangerous jobs in sport are hockey goalie, Indy 500 driver and bull rider — not necessarily in that order.

At the age of 19, this Montanan has handled the danger pretty well.

(Contact Abe Winter at or 406-234-0450.)