(Marc Smith, DiscoverMooseJaw.com) The goal heading into Swift Current was to walk away with at least a split of the first two games of their series.
After losing Game 1 in walk-off fashion on Tuesday, the Moose Jaw Miller Express were in a must-win situation in Game 2 and they answered the call with a 6-5 win over the 57s at Mitchell Field on Wednesday.
“That was the goal when we started out on the business trip, we took care of business and got a split out of it,” said Millers head coach Michael Hunt after the team’s Game 2 win.
The best-of-five series now sits tied at 1-1 coming back to Ross Wells Park for Games 3 and 4.
Moose Jaw lost Game 1 in what Hunt described as “heartbreaking” fashion as Swift Current overcame a 3-2 deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to win 4-3.
Wednesday’s Game 2 might have got a little bit too close for comfort again in the ninth as the Millers headed into the home half of final frame with a 6-3 lead, which dwindled down to one run before closer Ben Dalke struck out Keil Krumwiede to end the game.
“That’s the way that this series is going to be,” said Hunt. “It’s going to be a grind and neither team is going to roll over and accept defeat, so we’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game every time, every inning.”
Starting pitcher Mitchell Robinson, who won the team’s Pitcher of the Year award, was stellar for Moose Jaw in the win, allowing two runs – only one earned – on six hits and one walk over seven innings. He struck out one as well.
“We knew he’d be consistent and he gave us a chance with a quality start today,” said Hunt on his starter.
It took Moose Jaw’s offence a bit to get rolling on Wednesday as they trailed 2-1 after three innings with a lead-off home run by Adam Cook in the third being the only source of offence.
The Millers took control of the game in the seventh with three runs as they benefited from a pair of errors by the 57s in the frame.
Catcher Cole Warken led-off the inning with a single, stole second and then advanced to third on an error, which put third baseman Pate Katechis on first. Another error in the next at-bat brought home Warken and put Grant Westmoreland on first.
A single by Cook loaded the bases, but Katechis was thrown out at home on a grounder from second baseman Scott Platt.
Back-to-back run scoring singles from centre fielder Travis Able and right fielder Ty Schindel made sure the Millers came out of the inning with the lead.
Moose Jaw added to their lead with an RBI-single from Westmoreland in the eighth and another error in the ninth gave the Millers a much needed insurance run that put them up 6-3.
“It was a slow start to begin with, we didn’t execute a whole lot of stuff early, but once they got rolling, they kept rolling,” said Hunt.
That run ended up being crucial as Swift Current put together a charge in the ninth with RBI singles from Bodie Cooper and Brett Easu, who accounted for the two other 57s runs with a pair of solo home runs in the second and eighth innings.
After blowing the save in Game 1, Galen Andrews came through with some big outs in the eighth inning, only allowing the solo home run to Easu, while striking out three.
Dalke came on for the ninth inning and got two quick outs before running into a bit of trouble, but he executed his pitches when needed to get the final out and secure the win.
Swift Current starter Dustin Wells took the loss, allowing four runs – two earned – on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked none.
Relievers Jagger Harjo and Adian Goodall each allowed a run over the final 2 2/3 innings.
With the series shifting back to Moose Jaw now for Games 3 and 4, the Millers will be looking to take advantage on their home turf at Ross Wells Park.
Game 3 goes on Thursday night and Game 4 will be on Friday. First pitch for both games is at 7:05 p.m.