Shortstop Andres Garza hauls in a groundball during Tuesday night's meeting with Okotoks at Ross Wells Park. (Photo: Marc Smith)
The Moose Jaw Miller Express fell behind early and couldn't keep momentum on their side during Monday night's series opener with the Okotoks Dawgs.
The Millers lost 7-3 to the Dawgs in the first of three games between the two sides at Ross Wells Park.
"We gave them a couple of free ones, we threw the ball to the backstop twice and it's tough to give them free bases because they're a good team," said Millers head coach Rich Sorensen.
The loss puts Moose Jaw's record at 5-6 this season, while the Dawgs lead the Western Division at 8-2.
"I feel like we're right there, it just hasn't gone our way the past couple of games, we're hitting the ball good, we just need to start making that one key hit to start scoring some runs," said Shortstop Andres Garza, who finished 2-for-4 in the loss.
Dawgs outfielder Tristan Peters opened the game with a first-pitch home run to centre field for the Dawgs. Okotoks added two more runs in the second inning, but Millers starter Jeff Nicolosi settled in after that.
Nicolosi ended up allowing four runs on eight hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked two in the loss.
Okotoks starter kept the Millers off balance as he struck out ten and scattered one hit and three walks over five innings.
Moose Jaw struck out 15 times in the loss.
"They've got some good arms and we haven't seen that," said Sorensen. "We're taking too big of hacks and the zone was expanding too much, we were swinging at some bad pitches, but we haven't seen velocity like that, so we'll be alright, we'll be back tomorrow."
Moose Jaw finally got on the board in the sixth when second baseman Blake Gallagher led off the inning with a triple and came around to score on a groundout by designated hitter Michael Borst.
Back-to-back walks and then a double from Riley Baasch allowed Okotoks to answer with a run in the seventh, but the Millers struck back again when left fielder Dougie DelaCruz came around to score on a single by Gallagher. Moose Jaw had a chance at more runs in the inning with runners on first and second, but Okotoks second baseman Liam Rihela made a great diving stop to rob Borst of a run-scoring hit.
"That could have changed the whole complex of that game, so he made a great play," said Sorensen.
The teams traded runs in the eighth inning with Okotoks scoring on a wild pitch and Moose Jaw answering with third baseman Geordie McDougall smacking a two-out home run to left field.
Okotoks scored another run on a passed ball in the top of the ninth and then Dustin Schorie pitched a scoreless ninth to shut down the Millers.
"If we start hitting the ball a little bit early in the game, it will make some more opportunities and give us a better chance to win," said Garza.
"We're staying together as a team, really picking each other up and helping each other on what pitches we get beat on and what pitches to look for."
Moose Jaw's Reece Helland pitched for the second time this season for the Millers, throwing two innings, allowing one run on two hits and two walks with one strikeout.
Nathan Slobodian struck out two and surrendered two runs on two hits and two walks over two innings.
The Millers and Dawgs meet again on Wednesday night at Ross Wells Park. Sorensen said he expects Moose Jaw to rebound.
"That's what's nice about a three-game series is that now you get to see a little bit of their hitters and pitching, so now we can get defence a little bit better," he said.
First pitch on Wednesday is at 7:05 p.m.