By Randy Palmer

After reaching WCBL championship series with one of best seasons in recent history, Miller Express aim to go one step further

The 2022 Western Canadian Baseball League season was an incredible one for the Moose Jaw Miller Express, to the point it came within a single win of becoming a banner one.

And that has fans looking forward to what the upcoming campaign might hold.

The Miller Express went all the way to the championship final in the 11-team league last summer and took the eventual champion Okotoks Dawgs to a third-and-deciding game before falling just short of their first title in WCBL history.

The Express — who play in the five-team East Division with the Regina Red Sox, Swift Current 57’s, Medicine Hat Mavericks and Weyburn Beavers — posted a 33-23 record in 2022, leading the division from the second week of the season until the final day when they were caught by the Red Sox.

The post-season saw Moose Jaw roll to a two-game sweep against Swift Current before taking a three-game win over Medicine Hat in the division final to set up their meeting with Okotoks — who play in the West Division with the Brooks Bombers, Fort McMurray Giants, Edmonton Prospects, Lethbridge Bulls and Sylvan Lake Gulls.

The Miller Express got there thanks to an absolutely lethal offence that at one point featured an entire starting line-up batting over .300. 

Team MVP Nate Mensik led the way with a .314 average, 11 home runs and 42 runs batted in, with the outfielder joining seven Moose Jaw players in the WCBL All-Star Game, including infielder Zach Campbell, catcher Bryan Reyes, reliever Jesse Scholtz, starter Tim Carlson, starter Kellan Voggesser and closer Reece Helland.

Campbell ended up putting together a record-setting effort as the team’s lead-off hitter, setting a new WCBL mark with 69 runs scored. He capped the campaign with a stellar .339 average that included a stretch where he had at least a hit in 27 of 28 games.

Reyes joined Mensik in having an amazing rookie campaign, hitting a team-best .356 with four home runs and 45 RBIs.

Of course, you don’t send four pitchers to the All-Star Game with the best in the league without having a scary mound presence, and the Express had just that — Carlson led the way with a 4-2 record that included a 2.73 earned run average and 48 strikeouts against only nine walks, while Voggesser was 4-5 with a 3.90 ERA, 58 strikeouts and 21 walks. Scholtz was a lights-out workhorse, with a league-leading 37 appearances, including a run of 18 games where he allowed only two runs over 21 innings. His five saves finished tied for the league lead. Hometown product Helland joined the team mid-season and immediately emerged as an elite closer, finishing with a 2.25 ERA and four saves while striking out 38 in 19 appearances.

The Miller Express open the 58-game 2023 WCBL season on Saturday, May 27 when they host the Weyburn Beavers at Ross Wells Park.