Jeremy Stidham just missed on the first pitch of his ninth inning at-bat, but he made no mistake on the second pitch, belting an opposite field home run to lift the Moose Jaw Miller Express to a 6-5 win over the Yorkton Cardinals at Ross Wells Park on Sunday night.
Stidham’s three-run home run completed a comeback from four runs down for the Millers as they won for the sixth time in the past seven games, improving their record to 10-18.
“It felt great, I was hoping it would get out, I wasn’t sure if it would, but hopefully see more of those soon,” said Stidham after his fourth home run of the season. “It felt great to comeback when we were down so early.
“I was just looking for something up that I could drive and don’t miss one that he gives me. I missed the first one, but I got lucky that he left another one up and I connected with that one.”
That was the third walk-off win of the season for the Millers as they’ve had a flair of the dramatic all season long.
“From the beginning of the year we’ve had guys that don’t quit,” said head coach Michael Hunt. “We’re late inning monsters, but it would nice if we had some guys that weren’t so stubborn and made it a little easier, but man, you can’t complain about that win right there.”
After having their five-game winning streak snapped in a heartbreaker on Saturday night, the Millers continued to battle to finish the weekend, fighting off some struggles at the plate to come through when they needed to.
Hunt said that could be a big win for the team.
“If we treated (Saturday) like it was the start of a downward spiral, it was going to be a bad day, but if we treated it like it was a hiccup and took care of business, we’d have a different situation and we certainly turned it into a good one,” said Hunt.
The Millers found themselves down 5-1 heading into the eighth inning thanks to struggles early in innings as they managed to get the lead-off runner on in only two innings.
That changed in the eighth as Stidham led off the frame with a single and was brought around by third baseman Cole Distler’s RBI-double. Distler then scored on a run scoring single up the middle by designated hitter Zak Kellogg.
That put Moose Jaw down by two heading into the ninth where they again had the first two batters ground into outs, but back-to-back two-out walks by Lane Harvey and Lance VanNoy set up Stidham for his heroics.
“I don’t know what it is, we can’t score early and then we just turn it on in the last two innings and those are the hardest two innings to get us out now, so it’s fun to be a part of,” said Stidham.
The Cardinals opened with two runs in the first innings, helped out by an infield error, and then they tacked on two more in the third. A solo home run by left fielder Cory Cantebury in the fifth inning finished off the scoring for Yorkton.
Moose Jaw was held in check for much of the first seven innings, mustering only a single run in the second inning when Stidham came around to score after getting hit by the first pitch of the inning.
Stidham finished the game 2-for-4 with three runs scored, three RBIs and a hit-by-pitch.
The win went to relief pitcher Kobe Portillo, who did a great job of shutting down the Cardinals’ offence over the final four innings. He gave up just three hits and struck out one to pick up his first win of the season.
Bo Sheridan started the game for Moose Jaw and went five innings, allowing five runs on six hits, while striking out five and walking three.
Richard England will take the loss on the mound for Yorkton after he allowed three runs on one hit and two walks over 1 1/3 innings of work.
Cardinals starter Justin Johnston was strong over 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with two strike outs and one walk.
The Millers will get Monday off and then return to the field on Tuesday night for a rematch with the Cardinals in Yorkton. Moose Jaw’s next home action is on Wednesday when they start a four-game homestand against the Fort McMurray Giants.