(Story courtesy Marc Smith, DiscoverMooseJaw.com) With the game on the line, a misread on a relay throw ended the Moose Jaw Miller Express’ chances at finishing the weekend on a winning note on Sunday.
“That last out was all on me, I toe the line between being too aggressive and aggressive and it bit us today,” said head coach Michael Hunt after Sunday’s 8-7 loss to the Edmonton Prospects at Ross Wells Park.
Down 8-3 heading into the ninth, Moose Jaw was rallying back into the game with four runs coming in before the first out in the final frame, but on Brooks Benson was gunned down at the plate while trying to score from first base for the final out of the game.
“I saw the centerfielder bobble the ball, I saw a not very good relay-throw in and I thought we could get aggressive and they ended up making a real good throw in from the cut-off man,” said Hunt on the play.
The loss was the third straight for the Millers as their record dropped to 4-13 on the year.
Shortstop Jackson Schnurbusch led off the ninth with a single and then came around two batters later when Cutter McDowell connected for an RBI-single. A double moments later by Stidham scored another run before McDowell came around on a wild pitch to make it a two-run game.
A deep sac-fly by first baseman Travis Ouellet was enough to score Stidham from third and pull Moose Jaw within one, but that would be as close as they would get.
“We’ve scored in one inning before, so that’s what I was telling these boys in the eighth and ninth inning, ‘We might be down five, but this park has a lot of runs in it,’” said Hunt. “They stayed up, stayed positive and it worked really well in the ninth inning.”
Moose Jaw collected 13 hits in the loss, but left 11 runners stranded.
“It was good to see the offence get going,” said Schnurbusch, who was 3-for-5 with a double and two runs scored. “Lately we’ve been lining out a lot, hitting balls right at people, but they started to fall for us in the ninth and it was good to see.”
Edmonton opened the game by scoring a pair in the first inning, but Moose Jaw was able to answer right back. The Millers scored twice in the bottom of the first thanks to a run scoring single by catcher Jeremy Stidham and a double to centre by DH Zak Kellogg.
A solo home run by second baseman Dylan Flash in the second inning gave Moose Jaw an early 3-2 lead.
The Prospects took control of the game in the middle innings however, scoring twice in the fifth and sixth to move in front 6-3.
The Millers continued to get runners in scoring position in the seventh and eighth innings, but couldn’t bring them as Edmonton added another pair of runs in the eighth to take full control, up by five heading into the ninth.
Starting pitcher Kobe Portillo gave up 15 hits over 5 1/3 innings of work, but was able to limit the damage to just six runs before exiting in the sixth. He walked two and struck out two.
The Millers’ defence backed him up with a clean game behind him.
“Our defence is going to keep us in a lot of baseball games and pitching, Kobe did a great, but they found a lot of holes without a lot of hard contact and that’s just the way baseball is,” said Hunt.
Michael Cartwright finished the sixth inning without another run coming across, while Chris Suarez and Mark Baughman allowed a run in an inning of relief each. Travis Kuhn pitched a perfect ninth to give Moose Jaw the chance to rally.
Edmonton starter Paul Richy picked up the win, allowing three runs – one earned – on five hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked none. Kody Funderburk picked up the save in the ninth.
The Millers will be back on the field on Tuesday when they host the Yorkton Cardinals. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m.