The Moose Jaw Miller Express are still trying to extend their season past this week, but on Monday night, the team honoured their top performers from the 2016 season with their annual awards.
Catcher Jeremy Stidham came away with the top honour, being named the Millers’ most valuable player after a stellar second season in Moose Jaw.
The Eastern Michigan product has been a key player offensively and defensively for the Millers, leading the team with nine home runs and providing outstanding play at catcher, shutting down opposing team’s running game.
“It feels great to be named MVP, some of these deserve it too, but the coaches decided to give it to me. I had a really good year up here and definitely honoured to get MVP,” said Stidham, who hails from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
At the plate, Stidham put up a .301 average over 33 games. He led the team in home runs with nine and finished second in runs batted in with 23.
“I was just trying to go the other way more, try to be a bit more patient and definitely hit a lot more off speed pitches this summer than I did at school and that really ended up helping, I ended up having more extra base hits to opposition field, so that was really good to see and really encouraging,” said Stidham.
Stidham is heading into his senior season with the Eagles and he said he doesn’t know if he’ll be back in Moose Jaw for another season, but really enjoyed spending the past two summers at Ross Wells Park.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here in Moose Jaw and I’m definitely going to try to come back next season if I get the opportunity,” said Stidham.
The top pitcher award was split between a starter and a reliever with Kyle Sonntag and Travis Kuhn winning the honour on Monday.
This was Sonntag’s second season with Moose Jaw and the Saskatoon product put together a great year in his final season in the Western Major Baseball League.
Sonntag was the ace of the staff for Moose Jaw, finishing with a 3-4 record over nine starts. He posted a 3.75 earned run average in 62 1/3 innings pitched with 29 strikeouts and 20 walks.
“The year felt really good, there was several guys that could have won this award, everyone had good moments, so it meant a lot that they thought I was, in their opinion, the top pitcher,” said Sonntag.
After losing four of his first five starts, Sonntag turned it on in July, winning three of his four starts, including a pitching into the ninth inning in each of his last two starts.
“After the way that last season ended, I couldn’t quite get a complete game last year, so that was one of my goals this summer, getting that nine-inning complete game and thankfully I was able to get that during the last start,” said Sonntag. “I’ve been working on my stamina and it paid off.”
Kuhn served as the closer for the Miller Express this season and the 18-year-old from Norco, California was lights out in the ninth inning, picking up six saves in 17 appearances.
He finished the year 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA with 25 strikeouts and 13 walks.
Cole Distler was awarded the team’s Gold Glove after making just one error in 28 games for a .986 fielding percentage at third base, which led the WMBL at the position.
The Silver Slugger award as the team’s top hitter went to Cutter McDowell, who finished the year with a team-high .356 average. He also led the Millers with 11 doubles, 28 RBIs and 20 stolen bases.
Keegan Kwong might not have had the stats of other players on the team, but his hard work was honoured by the team with the Coaches Award. Kwong, a pitcher, started the league by playing second base with the team short on position players and has also served as the bullpen catcher all season.
The Millers will return to the field on Tuesday night in Swift Current. First pitch is at 7 p.m.