A valiant ninth inning rally wasn't enough for the Moose Jaw Miller Express.
They lost 9-8 in ten innings to the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets during Thursday night's Western Major Baseball League action at Ross Wells Park.
“Any time you lose against a division team, especially one that we've already taken two from, yeah it hurts,” said head coach Michael Hunt.
The loss drops the Millers' record to 6-5 on the year and cuts their early season lead on the Swift Current Indians to a half-game in the Central Division, while Saskatoon moves just two games back.
Moose Jaw scored two runs in the first inning and looked like they were going to be off and running, but the team struggled to find holes in the Yellow Jackets' defence and were held off the board until the ninth inning.
“We had a lot of good offensive at-bats all day, we just didn't find a lot of holes in the middle innings,” said Hunt. “(Saskatoon starter Dylan Hendricks) threw to contact and we got a lot of good barrel, but we just hit it right to guys, which is going to happen from time-to-time, but he's a good pitcher.”
Hendricks was left with a no-decision for his efforts after going 6.1 innings and giving up just two runs on five hits. His control was spot on against the Millers, giving up no walks on 86 pitches.
At one point, Hendricks retired 12 consecutive Moose Jaw batters before giving up a single in the fifth.
“We thought we had a pretty good bead on him in the first inning, we put some good at-bats together and we kind of lost our approach in the middle innings,” said centre fielder Miles Hunter. “That's just baseball at times, you've got to ride the highs and eliminate the lows as much as you can.”
The Millers bats did come to life just in time. Bronson Larsen had given Saskatoon a 7-2 lead with a two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning, but Moose Jaw answered back.
It started with a Frank Pluskota single to lead off the inning, Danny Lokesak drove in a run with a single, Derek Cornell followed that up with two-run double and Hunter tied the game with an RBI-single.
After batting through the order in the inning, the Millers had the bases loaded for Ben Douglas, but he grounded into an inning ending fielder's choice.
Saskatoon finally put a dagger into the Millers in the top of the tenth when Bryan Heward led off with a solo home run and Jordy Hart made it 9-7 with an RBI double.
The Millers were able to manufacture one run in the tenth, but Derek Cornell was caught leaning at first base to end the game.
“We put ourselves in a tough situation, but we definitely did show some character to battle back and put a rally together,” said Hunter. “At the same time, it puts a bittersweet taste in your mouth when you end up on the losing side of it.”
Hunter finished the game 2-for-4 with two RBI; Cornell had a great game from the lead-off spot, going 4-for-6 with two RBI and two runs scored; Lokesak also picked up a pair of RBI and went 2-for-5 on the day.
Tanner Spencer got the start for Moose Jaw and struggled, lasting only four innings and giving up four runs on three hits. He walked four with no strikeouts. Josh Janzen was stellar in relief, going three shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three.
“Janzen was huge to be able to come through after a short start from Tanner and chew up three innings, it was pretty monumental to be able to fill up the rest of that game,” said Hunt.
The loss stings right now for Moose Jaw, but they won't have much time to think about it as they're right back on the field on Friday for another divisional game against Swift Current.
“That's the best thing is that we play (Friday), you don't have stew on it, you don't have to think about it for too long,” said Hunter. “We're lucky enough that we get four more games in the next three days, I don't think that we could ask for anything better.”
First pitch between the Millers and Indians goes at 7:05pm Friday night.