Emotions almost reached a boiling point between the Moose Jaw Miller Express and Weyburn Beavers on Friday night at Ross Wells Park.
When all the dust eventually settled, the Millers had walked away with a 9-7 win over the Beavers in the third of four meetings between the two teams this season, improving their record to 12-7 on the year.
“This is good bonding game, everybody got together, it got pretty intense when it came down to the end and it was a good experience,” said starting pitcher Terry McNabb. “This is what the team needed.”
Relief pitcher Zach Shelstad and head coach Michael Hunt were ejected from the game after Shelstad hit Weyburn's lead-off batter, Matthew Kinney, in the ninth.
Both teams had been warned in the fifth inning after Dylan Hanson was hit for a third straight at-bat. Hunt got into a heated argument with home plate umpire Terry Marak as he felt the ejection wasn't warranted with Weyburn already having hit five Moose Jaw batters in the game to just the one for Moose Jaw.
The ninth inning really got interesting three batters later as Moose Jaw's 9-4 lead was cut to just two runs on one swing of the bat by Beavers outfielder Javy Marticorena. With Jason Renner now on the mound, Marticorena belted a three-run home run – his third HR in three consecutive at-bats – to make it 9-7.
That would be as close as Weyburn would get as a pair of ground-outs to shortstop Drew Danzeisen ended the game with Moose Jaw on top.
“There was a little bit of a circus act, some guys hitting guys and warnings, but that's all secondary at the end,” said Moose Jaw outfielder Miles Hunter. “When push comes to shove, as long as you finish the day with the W, that's all that really matters.”
Hunter's two-run home run in the eighth, which he crushed to right field, ended up being the difference in the win. He finished the game 3-for-3 with three runs scored, two RBI, a walk, a stolen base and was hit-by-a-pitch once.
Weyburn had cut Moose Jaw's lead to 7-4 in the top of the eighth thanks to a solo home run from Marticorena and a two-out RBI single from Marcus Blackmon, but Hunter's home run gave the Millers the breathing room that they needed.
“We know that Ross Wells plays small, leads can disappear in a hurry, so nothing is safe and you always want to keep adding on,” said Hunter. “That at-bat there I had a runner on second base, just wanted to barrel something up and at least score one, but luckily the pitch wasn't where he wanted it to be and I got two on the board instead of just one.”
The home run was big with the Beavers' three-run ninth inning cutting it close.
Moose Jaw got to that point thanks to another rock solid outing from McNabb, who outside the two home runs to Marticorena in the sixth and eighth, limited Weyburn to five other hits and just one run.
McNabb ended up improving his record to 6-0 on the year and pushed his league-leading strikeout total to 45 with nine Ks in the win.
“It's unfortunate that I gave up the couple of home runs, but if you can limit it to that, you should end off alright,” he said. “I wasn't hitting my spots as well as I usually do, usually I'm aggressive in the zone, I was trying to be, but I was just missing a bit.”
After the top four batters in the order were held to just one hit on Thursday night in Swift Current, Moose Jaw's top hitters responded on Friday, going 9-for-18. Austin Russell finished 2-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored.
Moose Jaw tagged Weyburn starter Ryan Johnson – who entered the game at 2-0 – for seven runs on 11 hits in five innings. The Millers also struck out just once in the win.
The key will be to carry it over into Swift Current on Saturday afternoon where they will meet their Central Division rivals for a rematch of Thursday's game.
“This is a good game for us to have going into Swift Current for a division game,” said McNabb. “It should boost our confidence and get the momentum going into (Saturday).”
Moose Jaw leads Swift Current by 2.5 games in the Central Division. The two sides will hit the field at 2:05pm on Saturday from Mitchell Field, you can tune in live at mjmillerexpress.com for play-by-play action with Voice of the Millers, Marc Smith.