The Moose Jaw Miller Express got the job done at home in Game 2 of the Western Canadian Baseball League final.
Now they’ll have a chance to play for a WCBL championship in a one-game, winner-take-all contest on Thursday night.
The Express had a stellar start from Cameron Dunn and used some timely hitting to put up key runs on their way to a 3-1 victory over the Okotoks Dawgs at Ross Wells Park.
The win evened the best-of-three series at a game apiece, with both teams jumping on the bus and heading to Okotoks right after Tuesday’s game to get ready for Game 3.
“Okotoks has some great guys over there, but the Moose Jaw faithful showed up for us tonight and I was just really happy I could do well for them and the boys and contribute to the win,” said Dunn, referring to the record crowd of close to 1,000 fans who showed up for Game 2, offering a massive boost to the local squad when they needed it the most.
The Miller Express wasted little time getting going, and it was a familiar name who got things done. Nate Mensik took a one-out, 1-2 pitch from Okotoks starter David Case over the centrefield wall in the bottom of the first for a quick 1-0 lead.
There the score stood until the top of the sixth, thanks to an exceptional showing from Dunn. He’d go 5 ⅓ innings, holding the most powerful offence in the league to a single run on three hits and giving the Express a chance to win.
“I treat every game I play like Game 7 of the finals, just to make sure I’m prepared for moments like this, so I wasn’t really nervous coming in,” Dunn said of his mindset heading into the start. “I know I’m a good ball player and I could do well, and it all worked out.”
The Dawgs tied things up off reliever Kellan Voggesser shortly after Dunn left the game, but he’d escape the inning without any other damage, and Moose Jaw got that run back in their half of the frame.
Mensik did the honours again, reaching on a lead-off single and scoring on an Austin Gurney suicide squeeze bunt. Two batters later, Gurney scored when Luke LaChance grounded into a bases-loaded fielder’s choice to make it 3-1 Express.
As it turns out, that would be the last offence in the game. A trio of relievers finished things off for Okotoks, and once Voggesser got through the seventh with ease, it was once again Reece Helland time.
The all-star closer took the mound in front of a raucous crowd, many of whom were chanting his name, and he would allow a single base hit over the final two innings, striking out three.
“That was so cool, so, so cool,” Helland said with a huge grin after signing a carpal-tunnel-inducing number of autographs after the game. “Tonight was a really special night seeing that many people out there and hearing when my name got called and everyone cheering, that was pretty special. And especially in that last inning, to have everyone clapping for the last out there was unbelievable, it’s something I’ve never experienced before.“
Now, it’s one game for everything, with first pitch of Game 3 of the WCBL championship final at 7 p.m. in Okotoks.
“This team has been unbelievable all year, with all the guys, the coaching staff and the fans, it’s been awesome and now we just want to bring home a championship for everyone,” Helland said.
The game is being streamed on www.westerncanadianbaseballleague.ca free of charge, so be sure to check out all the action!