Last week was tough for the Moose Jaw Miller Express, posting a 1-5 record, but this week started much better for the local Western Major Baseball League squad.
The Millers ended a three-game losing skid by sweeping Tuesday night's doubleheader against the Melville Millionaires, winning 10-3 and 5-1 at Ross Wells Park, to improve to 21-19 on the year.
With Swift Current sitting idle on Tuesday, the wins had big meaning for the Millers in the Central Division race as they allowed Moose Jaw to move within 2.5 games of the Indians with just six games to go. The Millers also went up four games on Saskatoon for second place, giving themselves some breathing room heading down the stretch.
There's just a week to go in the regular season, so every win is big, but after struggling to get their feet under them so far in July, Moose Jaw will take the positives as they come.
“We needed this,” said pitcher Tanner Spencer, who went six innings to pick up the win in the second game of the doubleheader. “It's easy for things to spiral out of control, especially with the stretch we have coming up, so this is a big day. Its gets the confidence back and the mojo back working.”
Both games seemed to rectify any problems that the Millers were having over the past few weeks.
They had been struggling to score early in games – they put up eight runs in the third inning of the first game and two in the third inning of the second game.
“It's great to play with the lead because the offence doesn't have as much pressure on it and the pitchers can settle down,” said third baseman Aiden Stinnett, who went 3-for-6 with two runs scored and an RBI in the two games.
The starting pitching had been inconsistent, but not on Tuesday as both pitchers went deep into the pair of seven-inning games, including Brandon Acosta pitching a complete game in the first half of the doubleheader.
And, the team had been committing more than a few errors over their past ten games, but they only had three in the two games, including two in the seventh inning of their 10-3 win in game one.
“We were able to take advantage of miscues, mental and physical, which we haven't done lately, and it was really nice to see,” said head coach Michael Hunt.
After getting Wednesday and Thursday off to rest, the Millers will be loading up the bus for a trip to Edmonton to take on the Prospects on back-to-back nights on Friday and Saturday.
“It's going to be a rough road trip with bus rides and coming back and playing again, so to have some momentum going into that is pretty big,” added Hunt.
Moose Jaw 10 Melville 3
Moose Jaw had the offence going right from the get-go on Tuesday night as they loaded the bases in the first inning of the first game.
That didn't lead to any runs, but it set the tone, which eventually led to their eight-run outburst in the third inning that blew the game open and essentially sealed the win.
Derek Cornell's two-run home run with two outs in the inning was the icing on the cake after Moose Jaw put five hitters on base in a row.
“We were just more patient, we were swinging at pitches out of the zone,” said Stinnett. “When we see more pitches, we seem to do better.”
The other thing that the Millers had going for them in the win was Brandon Acosta, who was lights out on the mound. He retired the first 11 Melville batters he faced before allowing a single and a two-run home run to pinch hitter Tres Tyler.
That was the lone bad pitch of the game for Acosta as he went the full seven innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits with seven strikeouts and one walk.
Austin Russell went 2-for-3 in the game with three RBI, while Dylan Hanson and Drew Danzeisen each had two hits and score two runs.
Moose Jaw 5 Melville 1
The second game of the doubleheader was more of a pitcher's duel that felt like whichever side broke through first would prevail.
It ended up being Moose Jaw that struck first, as Russell came in to score on a wild pitch in the third and Ben Douglas followed that up with an RBI. That 2-0 lead would hold for the rest of the game.
Tanner Spencer barely flinched on the mound during his six innings of work. He loaded up the bases in the fourth with none out, but managed to retire the next three, the last two by strikeout to get out of the jam.
“I knew I had the bottom up, so I know that I had a chance to strike a couple guys out and it worked,” said Spencer. “I've had a stretch of rough ones, so it's nice to have a good one and have a little confidence out there.”
Spencer gave up one run in the sixth that allowed Melville to cut the lead to 2-1, but the offence answered in the bottom half of the inning with three runs to seal the win. Spencer went six innings with one run against on three hits and four walks. He struck out five.
Jorge Pantoja finished off the win, striking out the first two and getting Andrew Jacobi to fly out to centerfield to end the game.