A solo home run from Ben Douglas to lead off the sixth inning stopped the bleeding and ended up being the difference for the Moose Jaw Miller Express on Saturday night.
The Millers finished off a two-game sweep of the Medicine Hat Mavericks with a slim 10-9 win at Ross Wells Park in a game that looked out of reach at one point.
“It was just a rally killer for them,” said Douglas on his eventual game-winning home run. “We come back and get a run back right there on the spot, it gave us the momentum back to not let anything bad happen.”
Moose Jaw had built up a 7-1 lead after the second inning thanks to a five-run second, which included a two-run single from Douglas, who finished 3-for-5 with four RBI in the win.
Two more runs in the fifth gave the Millers a 9-1 advantage, but the wheels fell off for starting pitcher Josh Janzen in the top of the sixth. Medicine Hat sent 12 batters to the plate in the inning and scored eight runs to cut Moose Jaw’s lead to just 9-8.
That’s when Douglas came through, belting a home run over the right field wall on the second pitch of the sixth to kill the Mavericks momentum.
“It ended up being the winning run, so it certainly was a big lift,” said head coach Michael Hunt after his team's second straight win. “The wheels fell off real quick, but the guys did a good job of stopping the bleeding and then limiting it to as minimal damage as possible.”
Jorge Pantoja would come on to pitch two scoreless innings of relief before giving way to Jason Renner, who allowed one run in the ninth before finishing off his third save of the season.
Janzen got the win for the Millers, going six innings, giving up eight runs — only four earned — on ten hits to improve to 2-0 on the year. He was cruising through the first five innings before everything came apart.
“A couple of mental of errors, a physical error and then the wheels fell off real quick,” said Hunt. “He was challenging hitters, he wasn't nibbling, it wasn't walks, it was just hit, hit, hit, so it's just one of those things and we got lucky.”
Moose Jaw chased Medicine Hat starter Kalei Contrades after just two innings, he surrendered seven earned runs on nine hits. It was the second straight game that Moose Jaw burst out to a big lead after knocking off the Mavericks 7-1 on Friday night.
“It's huge, it's great for the confidence to come out and just get a bunch of runs going, get momentum going and it's just great to play with a lead the whole time,” said Douglas.
The top of the order really came through in the win for Moose Jaw with hitters one through five going a combined 11-for-23. Derek Cornell was 2-for-5 with two runs scored and an RBI out of the leadoff spot; Austin Russell finished 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored; and Miles Hunter went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI in his final home game for the Millers.
The win improves Moose Jaw’s record to 15-11 on the year and keeps them in first place in the Central Division. It also gets them back on track after a 1-3 road trip to Alberta and finishes off a tough six games in five days stretch on a high note.
“It was a long five days and it was nice that these guys still have the energy to come out and do this because that was a big up and down adrenaline kind of game,” said Hunt. “It's really great to see these guys have that kind of push at the end.”
The road doesn't get any quieter for the Millers as they have Sunday off and then are back on the field on Monday in Melville for their first meeting of the season with the 9-14 Millionaires. Moose Jaw has six games in seven days this week, including three in the Central Division.