By Randy Palmer

Moose Jaw uses a pair of five-run innings and some timely hitting to take 14-8 win over Mavericks in Western Canadian Baseball League home opener

Throughout Eric Marriott’s tenure as head coach of the Moose Jaw Miller Express, they’ve become known as a team that can put all sorts of runs on the board very quickly, 

It appears in the early going of the 2024 Western Canadian Baseball League season that won’t be changing any time soon.

The Miller Express had a grand slam from Austin Gurney and put up a pair of five-run innings on their way to a 14-8 victory over the Medicine Hat Mavericks in their home opener on Saturday night at Ross Wells Park.

The victory sees Moose Jaw improve to 2-0 on the campaign after a close 5-3 win over Weyburn on Friday night, 

“It was a great win last night in Weyburn to start the year and an important one to get on the road. Then we come back here tonight, the city of Moose Jaw showed out, they were awesome, it was packed in here,” Marriott told team social media manager Joe Gunnis after the contest. “Medicine Hat is a strong team, they’re well coached over there, but the boys showed up, Declan O’Hare was a star and we’ll look to do it again (on Sunday night).”

O’Hare — a product of Central College out of Los Angeles — has begun his Miller Express career in impressive fashion. He capped Saturday’s contest with a 2-for-3 effort that included a pair of doubles, two runs scored, a pair of walks and a run batted in. 

Thing is, that impressive statline was almost overshadowed by what the rest of the team put together at the plate.

Third-year veteran Austin Gurney brought the fans to their feet in the second inning when he sent a John Walsh offering over the fence in centre field not only for the Miller Express’ first home run of the season, but a grand slam, too boot.

Nathan Houston picked up where he left off against Weyburn with a 2-for-5 outing that included a bizarre sequence in the fifth inning, where a pair of errors turned a single into an unofficial inside-the-park home run. He also crossed the plate twice, as did Evan Deringer and Thomas Soto.

Rookie Elijah Bear had a good game at the plate as well, going 3-for-5 with a run as Moose Jaw pounded out 12 hits on the night.

On the mound, Ethan Merk got the start and allowed four runs on six hits over three innings, with Medicine Hat doing all their damage in the second inning. Jadon Canelli was perfect in two innings of relief and picked up the win in his first-ever appearance, while Jacob Quiles allowed three runs, one earned, over the next two frames and Nathan Yunick allowed a single run in the eighth. Garrett Houston closed things out with a scoreless ninth.

Walsh allowed seven runs on five hits and three walks in 3 ? innings of work, while the Express put up another seven in 1 ? innings off Jack Novak. Ryan Dexter and Lane McEachern combined for three scoreless innings to finish things off for the Mavericks.

Brody Gardner topped Medicine Hat’s offence, going 4-for-6 with a pair of runs, while Jordan Phillips was 3-for-5 and scored a run.

It was a busy night across the league, including the debut of the Saskatoon Berries, who dropped a 5-4 decision to the Regina Red Sox. Other action saw Swift Current defeat Weyburn 9-5, Edmonton edge Fort McMurray 6-5, Okotoks down Lethbridge 10-5, and Sylvan Lake hammer Brooks 17-3. 

The Miller Express are back in action Sunday night when they rematch the Mavericks. Game time is 7:05 p.m. at Ross Wells Park.