Miller Express officially clinch playoff spot as regular season winds down
Moose Jaw takes doubleheader sweep over Yorkton, falls to Regina in trio of contests
There weren’t many foregone conclusions in the Western Canadian Baseball League heading into play this week, but one thing was all but certain: the Moose Jaw Miller Express were going to clinch a playoff spot.
Sure enough, they did just that on Tuesday with a doubleheader sweep over the Yorkton Cardinals securing the fourth and final postseason berth in the Eastern Division. The two wins – 9-8 in the opener and 11-2 in the second contest – combined with a 9-3 loss to the Regina Red Sox on Thursday saw the Miller Express sit at 25-25 heading into weekend action, 9 ½ games up on the Melville Millionaires and 6 ½ back of the Weyburn Beavers with six games remaining.
Express 9, Yorkton 8
Blake Gallagher reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second and scored on a base hit by Tucker Zdunich to give the Express the 10-inning victory.
The contest was picked up in the fourth inning with Yorkton holding a 5-3 lead: the two teams had seen their game on July 28 suspended due to rain, with the final meeting of the season on Tuesday marking the last opportunity to get the game in.
Interestingly enough, the Cardinals – owners of the worst record in the WCBL at 6-45 – tacked on another run in the sixth to take a 6-4 lead, only to see the Express rally with four runs in the seventh. Yorkton wouldn’t go easily, though, once again tying the game with a pair of runs in the eighth and setting the stage for the walk-off win.
Geordie McDougall finished the game 1-for-4 with four runs batted in, while Cole Warken put together a 3-for-5 night with a run scored and an RBI. Gallagher had a pair of hits in six trips and scored two runs.
Ty Sheridan got the start back on July 28 and gave up three runs on three hits in 2 2/3; Nico Portillo went 4 2/3 and surrendered five runs on eight hits before giving way to Jack Gamba, who continued to be lights out the rest of the way, giving up only two hits while striking out a pair. Gamba has not given up a run in 14 appearances this season and sports a 0.87 WHIP.
Express 11, Yorkton 2
Things weren’t as close in game two, as Moose Jaw built an 8-0 lead through three innings and never looked back.
Moose Jaw product Reece Helland hit his first WCBL home run in the first inning, a three-run shot coming on the first pitch of his first at bat in the game. Two batters earlier, Geordie McDougall had put the Express ahead 2-0 with a two-run shot of his own.
Helland finished the game with a pair of runs scored and three RBI, Dougie DelaCruz crossed the plate three times. Ty Lightley was 2-for-4 with two runs and two RBI.
Alex Orenczuk got the start on the mount and gave up two runs on four hits in three innings work. Warken and Darrel Doll tossed four innings of scoreless relief.
Regina 9, Express 3
With a playoff spot clinched, Express coach Rich Sorenson decided to throw a rather strange line-up at the Red Sox, with a good part of the team’s pitching staff taking to the field and pretty much put every player out of position one way or another.
In other words, time to have a little fun.
Orenczuk finished the game 2-for-4 with a run scored batting lead-off, while Warken had a pair of hits. Michael Borst added a solo home run in the fifth.
Sheridan took the loss, giving up seven runs – only two earned as the Express made four errors in the contest – while walking four and giving up five hits. Lightley gave up two runs in 3 2/3 innings, Zach Campbell closed out the game with three hits in three innings.
The Miller Express are back in action Friday night when they travel to Regina. Next home action is Pack the Park Night on Saturday when the Express host the Weyburn Beavers. Game time is 7 p.m., with a host of special prizes and draws taking place throughout the night.