Express sputter in defeat to Dawgs

Katie Brickman
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Spencer struggles in season debut

Walks and errors proved costly for the Moose Jaw Miller Express.

Moose Jaw Miller Express head coach Michael Hunt, centre, talks with starting pitcher Tanner Spencer and catcher Cole Warken during a stoppage in play against the Oktokos Dawgs at Ross Wells Park on Thursday night. Times-Herald photo by Katie Brickman

Four pitchers for the Express (4-3) issued nine walks and the team committed two errors, resulting in an 8-5 loss to the Okotoks Dawgs (2-7).

The teams split a two-game series at Ross Wells Park on Thursday evening.

 “We made the easy plays not look so easy,” said Michael Hunt, head coach of the Express. “These guys know they that they were going to be tough. We have to bring our A-game, just like everyone else brings their A-game for us. It just didn’t happen today.”

Tanner Spencer made his first start of the season for the Express and struggled early.

In the top of the first inning, he fell behind the first three batters he faced. Fortunately, the Dawgs only got one run in the inning.

“It is still a progress. He is still trying to find the touch and the feel with the Tommy John (surgery),” stated Hunt of Spencer’s troubles. “He is going to be right and it is just going to take some time. It is not like we are going to force it. The more he tries to force it; it can make bad (go to) worse. It is just a patience game with him and he is going to do the things that will make him happen.”

Spencer had 103 pitches in five innings, giving up four runs on four hits, walked five and struck out five.

Hunt had to make a mound visit to calm Spencer down after he got into a jam in back-to-back innings.

“He has got some triggers and some verbal cues to have him not think about some things,” said Hunt. “I know that sounds backwards, but that is the thing. He thinks about it and tries to be mechanical with it and that’s what he starts to go downhill.”

The Express appeared to continue where they left off on Wednesday night with their bats and a little bit of luck in the bottom of the first.

Both Austin Russell and Miles Hunter scored unearned runs on an error and a balk by Andrew Moralez, the starting pitcher for the Dawgs.

They added three more runs in the fifth inning, but were held scoreless the rest of the game.

The Express had eight hits throughout the game, but couldn’t find that clutch hit, as they left 10 stranded on base.

“We did this to ourselves,” said Hunt. “Okotoks competed in innings one through nine. They did let up at all and I don’t think we let up, but we just made it a little bit easier for them.”

The team will have today off, but will host the Lethbridge Bulls on Saturday (7 p.m., Ross Wells Park) and Sunday (2 p.m., Ross Wells Park) for a weekend series.

“Rest and recovery,” Hunt said of the focus for Friday. “We got some guys banged up. We just want to take it easy a bit. It was tough and long three games, so we just want to take the day to relax and go right back into it on the weekend.”

Follow Katie on Twitter @katiebrickman.

Organizations: Lethbridge Bulls

Geographic location: Ross Wells Park

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