The Moose Jaw Miller Express are off to the second round of the playoffs.
And wouldn’t you know it, thanks to a massive upset in the other East Division series, they’re about to face a far different opponent in the Western Canadian Baseball League East Division final than they expected.
Instead of the much-anticipated bout with the Regina Red Sox to decide who advances to the WCBL championship series, the Express will be facing the Medicine Hat Mavericks after Medicine Hat took a 3-2 win over Regina in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
The Mavericks finished 20 games under .500 and 16 games back of Regina in the regular season, making the series upset one of the biggest in recent WCBL history. And true to WCBL form, there was a reason for it, as the Red Sox had a host of players depart for their college teams after their Trans-Canada Clash win last week.
“That’s baseball,” said Miller Express head coach Eric Marriott. “At any given moment, anyone can beat anyone and Medicine Hat has a very talented team and they’re very well coached. They’re going to come to Moose Jaw Friday and be ready to go and we’re going to have to be ready to go as well.”
On their end, the Express expected a tougher outing in Swift Current compared to their comfortable 9-2 win in Game 1 on Monday, and that’s exactly what they got.
Moose Jaw had a two-run single from Joe Osborn and a two-run double from Greyson Barrett to key a five-run first inning, but that would be it for their offence on the night as they’d go on to a 5-3 victory.
“It was a great game, it was suspenseful to say the least,” Marriott said. “Cam Dunn was great, he gave us five strong innings and our offence was explosive in the first inning and kind of got shut down by their pitcher after that, but it ended up being just enough to win the game.”
Dunn allowed three runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out three and would take the win. As well as things went in his start, the bullpen was even better.
Kaleb Waller allowed a single hit in two innings of shutout relief, after which it was time for Liam Sommer to step into Jesse Scholtz’s old role, tossing a perfect eighth. That set the stage for Reece Helland, and he did what Reece Helland does -- three batters, three outs, a strikeout and a save.
“Our bullpen was fantastic last night, we need them to be big down the stretch and they definitely answered the bell last night,” Marriott said. “Those jobs were earned, definitely. Opportunities were given we’ve had some players really take advantage of it. Sommer has been electric in that set-up role and Reece has been lights out every time I give him the ball and we know we’ll need that in the games coming up, too.”
Osborn finished his night 2-for-5, with Greyson Barrett the only other player with more than a single hit.
Now, it’s on to the next round, and even with their surprise opponent, the beat goes on. Ethan Merk was slated to start the opening game of the East Final on Friday night in Regina, now he’ll get the start on Friday night in Moose Jaw against Medicine Hat.
“Nothing changes on our end,” Marriott said.”We’re just going to keep playing the game we’ve played all year. Our guys are confident, they’re excited for the city of Moose Jaw. We’re going to have our bats and we’re going to have our pitching staff ready to go and as long as we stick with the approach we’ve had, we should be just fine.”
First pitch for Game 1 is 7:05 p.m. at Ross Wells Park.