(Marc Smith, DiscoverMooseJaw.com) After two seasons of sitting on the outside and watching, the Moose Jaw Miller Express are returning to the Western Major Baseball League playoffs.
The Millers secured a playoff spot with a 15-6 win over the Yorkton Cardinals on Sunday night at Ross Wells Park, giving them their second win of the weekend and third straight overall.
“It’s been a while since we were able to come out with a blow away game and get the offence really rolling like we did tonight, it was just a good win all around,” said first baseman Ben Dalke.
The win improved Moose Jaw’s record to 21-21 on the year and has them finding their stride at the right time with just a week remaining in the regular season.
“Momentum is a big thing with baseball and we’ve got it going,” said Centre fielder Travis Able, who went 2-for-4 with a triple, three RBI and a run scored in the win.
“Through mid-July it seemed like we were all slumping a little bit offensively and it kind of seems like our wheels are starting to get some traction now and we’re starting to actually hit.”’
Sunday’s win didn’t start great for Moose Jaw as Yorkton was able to jump on starting pitcher Mitchell Robinson and score four runs on four hits in the opening frame.
The Millers did answer back in the bottom of the first with the first three hitters all reaching base and putting a run on the board to make it 4-1.
The game really turned in Moose Jaw’s favour in the third inning when Dalke smacked a grand slam that just got over the wall in right-centre.
“I was looking for a fastball and making sure that I could stay back this time instead of rolling over like I’ve been doing, so I got a pitch that looked pretty good and put a good swing on it,” said Dalke.
“I was just trying to get it deep enough to get the guy in from third, score a run and just try to do a job, lucky enough we have a short porch here and it carried out.”
Moose Jaw was rolling after that. They tacked on two more runs in the sixth, then added five in the seventh and three more in the eighth for the lopsided win.
Able drove in a pair with a single in the seventh and then continued to feel it at the plate in the eighth when he smoked a run-scoring triple to deep to right-centre.
“I changed a couple of things, I was slumping throughout July, which was no fun, now I changed some things and I’m starting to hit a bit, I’m seeing the ball better and it’s a lot better than the middle of July was,” said Able.
Left fielder Ty Schindel also had a big night at the plate as he went 3-for-4 with two runs, two RBI and a walk, while second baseman Lane Harvey was 3-for-5 with a double, two runs and two RBI.
Infielder Adam Cook went 2-for-4 with a double, three runs and two RBI, and shortstop Scott Platt also picked up a pair of hits and two runs scored.
Moose Jaw finished with 17 hits in the win.
After giving up the four runs in the first, Robinson settled in and only allowed three more hits over the next four innings, while striking out four and walking two in the no-decision.
“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get Mitch his second win of the year, but he’s been pitching great and we’re going to get him a win sometime,” said Dalke.
Mitchell Price was credited with the win after coming in and allowing one run on two hits and a walk over two innings.
D.J. Martinez surrendered one run on two hits in the eighth inning, while Carter Sorenson pitched a scoreless ninth inning, allowing one hit, to seal the win.
The Millers head into the final week of the regular season on a high note after also beating Swift Current, 5-2, on Saturday.
“We’ve clinched playoffs and we know we’re going there, so we know it’s worth something to get the bats going now because playoffs is when it really means it, so if we can get the snowball rolling downhill and getting bigger, that will be good,” said Able.
Moose Jaw opens the final week on Tuesday with a trip to Weyburn. They host Regina on Wednesday.