08/03/2013 12:45 AM
August 2, 2013
It was a season of promise with many memories that ended in forgettable fashion for the Moose Jaw Miller Express on Friday night.
The Millers saw their season come to an end with an 11-3 loss to the Medicine Hat Mavericks, who finished off a sweep of their best-of-five Western Major Baseball League series.
“It's not how you want to draw it up, but we gave them everything we had,” said head coach Michael Hunt after the Game 3 loss. “Those first two games probably took a little bit out of the sails because it was emotional and adrenaline filled, but it just ended up not being a story book ending.”
“The score doesn't really reflect how much we put into the game (Friday),” said shortstop Jon Cotter, who played in his final WMBL game. “The first two in Med Hat were real close nail bitters and then this one just kind of got away from us.”
The Millers came home to a packed house down 2-0 in the series, but fell behind the eight-ball early in Game 3, giving up four runs in the second inning, three of which came off a bases clearing double by Grant Silva, and that was really the end.
Medicine Hat build up an 8-0 lead by the end of the sixth thanks to a two-run home run from Mitch Frey in the fourth and another two-run shot by Zach Zdanowicz in the sixth, which really put the game out of reach.
Miles Hunter launched a three-run home run for the Millers in the seventh that gave them some life, but three more runs in the ninth by Medicine Hat, including another two-run home run this one coming off the bat of CJ DeDeaux ended any hopes of a comeback.
“They're unflappable,” said Hunt on Medicine Hat, who finished with the best record in the WMBL and are going to be a tough test for any team going forward. “You get a couple runs off them, or they make a couple mistakes, and it just doesn't matter. There's no high and low, they're right in the middle and they're the same innings one through nine.”
Dustin Caplette, a Moose Jaw native, was making his final start in a Millers' uniform and it didn't go exactly as planned. He ended up surrendering eight runs on seven hits over 6 1/3 innings of work. He had three strikeouts, two walks and two hit batters to take the loss.
“It's not how I wanted it to go, but sometimes that's just the way it goes,” said Caplette. “(I wasn't nervous) at all, I just thought of it as another game and it just didn't go the way I planned.”
On the other side, Billy Martin was almost unhittable for the Mavericks. The regular season ERA-leader cruised through six shutout innings with only four hits against and eight strikeouts.
“They've got four or five guys that are number one calibre pitchers,” said Cotter on how tough it was going against the Medicine Hat pitching staff. “Martin led the league in ERA, so what's he doing throwing the third game of a series? But that's just how good they are.”
Medicine Hat is moving on to the second round and the Millers' season is coming to an end with the loss.
It was a year with many ups and downs for the Moose Jaw squad. They had some incredible strong individual performances and runs where the team played extremely well, but consistency eluded them for much of the year.
“Unfortunately you kind of reap what you sow,” said Hunt. “We dumped some games in June and we had to deal with it in July. I thought we played really, really well in July and earned our way into the playoffs. We gave them probably as big of test as they're going to face in the playoffs.
“We got some hardware, which was great, guys get to feel good about that. We put together some pretty good offensive stuff and we're just two series short. We met one of our goals, but just didn't get as deep as we would like, so it's back to the drawing board.”
Hunt added that there were many highlights in the season. He pointed to Marshall Dean's almost-perfect game, hitting five home runs in Okotoks to clinch a playoff spot, and some strong pitching performances out of Hunter Johnson and Jason Renner.
The Millers have five players that are graduating this season, including locals Cotter, Caplette and Dean, as well as league MVP Michael Corso and Ben Bridges