(Story courtesy Marc Smith, DiscoverMooseJaw.com) The Moose Jaw Miller Express struggled to find the zone on Thursday night and it cost them against the Okotoks Dawgs.
After overcoming some mistakes for a big win on Wednesday, Moose Jaw couldn't make up for nine walks and two errors in an 8-5 loss to the Dawgs in the second game of a two-game set at Ross Wells Park.
“We made some of the easy plays look not so easy,” said head coach Michael Hunt after the game.
There wasn't many errors for the Millers in the game, but the two came in the seventh and eighth inning and ended up being costly as Okotoks scored four runs to pull in front for the win.
Taylor Fish and Spencer Church drove in a run each during the three-run seventh inning for Okotoks. A potential double play in the eighth inning turned into a run for the Dawgs after an error at second base.
Those runs turned a 5-4 lead for Moose Jaw into an 8-5 lead for Okotoks and the bats were unable to get back to the momentum for the Millers.
“These guys know that they're going to be tough every night,” said Hunt. “We have to bring our 'A' game, just like everybody has to bring their 'A' game for us. It just didn't happen today.”
Moose Jaw outhit Okotoks, but were hammered by leaving six runners in standing in scoring position, including bases loaded in the seventh and two-on in the eighth.
“(Okotoks) competed in innings one through nine, they didn't let up at all and I don't think that we let up, but we just made it a little easier for them,” said Hunt.
Tanner Spencer made his first start of the season for Moose Jaw and pitched five innings, giving up four runs on four hits. He struggled by falling behind hitters early and ended up walking five and striking out five.
“He's still trying to find the touch in the field with the Tommy John, he's going to be right and it's just going to take some time,” said Hunt on his starter out of Craik, Saskatchewan. “It's not like we’re going to force it and the more he tries to force it, it can make bad worse, so it's just a patience game with him and he's going to do the things to make it happen.”
Spencer was able to pitch out of some jams to get through his five innings and leave with the lead. He stranded two in the second and the bases loaded in the third before giving up a two-run home run to Connor Crane in the fourth.
Moose Jaw retook the lead in the fifth on a solo home run from Derek Cornell, plus Austin Russell coming in to score on a wild pitch after reaching on an error and Miles Hunter scoring on an error.
Cornell ended up finishing 3-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Russell and Hunter each scored two runs and Aiden Stinnett added two hits to raise his average to .400.
That was the end of the night for Okotoks starter Andrew Moralez as he ended up allowing one earned run on five hits. Josh Shaw got the win with 1.2 innings of one-hit relief. Charlie Dant picked up the save, pitching the final 2.1 innings and allowing just two hits.
The bullpen would hold until the seventh for Moose Jaw when Connor Keating surrendered the three go ahead runs, just one earned though. Jorge Pantoja gave up a run in the eighth and Josh Janzen pitched a clean ninth to give the Millers a shot at the rally.
It didn't happen as Stinnett was stranded at second after a double.
Moose Jaw will get Friday off to prepare for a two-game set with the Lethbridge Bulls at Ross Wells Park on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
“We've got some guys still banged up, three games it was a tough, long three games, so take the day relax, go into the weekend and then get right back at it,” said Hunt.
First pitch on Saturday is at 7:05pm. The two teams hit the field on Sunday at 2:05pm, you can tune in live at mjmillerexpress.com with voice of the Miller Express, Marc Smith.