Russell and Leavitt return to Miller Express
Two more non-imports will return to the Moose Jaw Miller Express this season.
Austin Russell makes a catch in Western Major Baseball League action in 2012. Russell will return to the Moose Jaw Miller Express this season. Times-Herald file photo
Austin Russell from Victoria, B.C. will play his senior year in Moose Jaw and Todd Leavitt returns for another season.
Russell didn’t play with the Express last year but did in 2012. He is currently finishing his senior season at McPherson College in Kansas.
“He had a great time here. He was a great player for us and we wanted him back,” said Michael Hunt, head coach of the Express. “Last year, Victoria got a team in that West Coast College League, so he wanted to stay home. They don’t take seniors, so his first choice was right here.”
This season with McPherson, he is fourth in batting with a .331 average, eight doubles and 36 RBI.
“He is a great player, a good teammate,” said Hunt. “He is a high average guy. He doesn’t hit for a lot of power, but he gets on base and he can run the bases really well. Drew (Danzeisen) will compliment him really well. They are both really smart baseball runners.”
This will be his final year of eligibility in the Western Major Baseball League and the outfielder will be able to provide leadership and a different perspective after playing in Victoria.
“It is pretty much the competitive level, but he will have seen different players and just a greater experience to draw from when it comes to key situations,” said Hunt.
Leavitt is from Vernon, B.C. and had a frustrating season with the Express last year. He posted 1-2 record with 6.18 earned run average (ERA) in six starts.
“He dealt with some issues with his shoulder,” said Hunt. “Looking at him this year, he has been 100 per cent healthy. I have him slated as a starter and he is prepared to go as a starter.”
Leavitt is currently attending Mayville State University and has posted a 3-1 record and has a 3.97 ERA in 22.2 innings.
“We know what we are going to get out of him,” said Hunt, “He is a bulldog guy. He is going to pitch with a little experience and he is a nice guy to have in the rotation. He is a quality, glue guy in the clubhouse.”
The Express will go with veteran Terry McNabb as their No. 1 starter and could see Leavitt in as their No. 3 guy. That all is based on when the players are finished school and rest days.
“We do have two lefty starters, so I want to try and break those up. I am going to mix and match at the beginning of the year just to see what the best combination is going to be,” said Hunt. “He is a fastball-curve ball type of guy and he compliments it well with a solid change up.”
Since Leavitt was injured and shut down by the team last year, Hunt believes he will come in with an unfinished business on his mind.
“I don’t think he needs extra motivation for that, but he will. He is a guy that doesn’t take anything for granted and works for everything he has got,” said Hunt. “He certainly doesn’t expect things to be handed to him and having had a rough year last year.”
Hunt expects both to be in town for the home opener on May 30 at Ross Wells Park.
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.