Janzen's gem helps keep the Express alive

Matthew Gourlie
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Frank Pluskota has a big night on offence and defence in 6-1 Moose Jaw win

Frank Pluskota changed the momentum of Sunday's game with one 250-foot throw.

Moose Jaw's Frank Pluskota charges on a fly ball before throwing out Medicine Hat's Andy Scott at home in Game 3 of their WMBL playoff series at Ross Wells Park.

Now the Moose Jaw Miller Express will try to take the momentum from their 6-1 win Sunday and try to use it to prolong their Western Major Baseball League season once more on Monday night.

Pluskota caught a fly ball in the top of the third inning and threw a dart home to Cole Warken who tagged out Andy Scott who was trying to tag up from third base. The double-play kept the game scoreless.

"It is literally one of the best feelings in baseball to get an outfield assist," said Pluskota.

In the bottom half of the inning, Pluskota opened the scoring with a two-run single. Ben Douglas doubled the lead with a two-run single of his own. The Express left the bases loaded in the third, but the four runs they scored would be enough run support.

"That was huge. That's something we haven't really been able to do in the last two games," said Pluskota of the four-run rally. "We put up one run in the first inning of the first game, but today it was great to put up a five spot in the third and fourth inning. It makes it much more difficult for the other team.

"All season we've struggled with runners on second and third and less than two outs. Coach (Michael) Hunt has been drilling it into our heads that when we get guys in scoring position we've got to get them in. We've actually changed our batting practice around to implement that and it's coming in handy right now."

Miller Express starting pitcher Josh Janzen retired 14 straight batters after they took a 4-0 lead. He didn't give up a hit after Pluskota's assist.

"That was huge. Who knows how that game would have went without that play. It got everybody fired up and kept the momentum on our side," said Janzen who more aggressive with a 4-0 lead to work with. 

"I started to not try to nibble so much and I started filling the strike zone. I threw all my pitches for strikes, which hasn't been there in a long time. It just felt really good tonight," he said.

Janzen had a 4-0 record on the season and the Devils Lake, N.D. product gave the Mavs batters a devil of a time. He allowed two hits and walked two batters in eight innings of work.

"I've been waiting to pitch like I know I can for a long time," said Janzen. "It's good to keep playing with these guys. We want to keep playing with each other for as long as we can, but there's an extra boost when it's do-or-die."

In Game 2 the Mavs plated 10 runs and had 14 hits, but they struggled to get anything going Sunday.

"Baseball is an interesting game. You can hit a ball as hard as you can and someone will be there to catch it. We had an awful lot of 'loud outs' tonight. The young man pitched his read end off and did a fantastic job," said Mavericks head coach Adam Shorsher who called Pluskota's throw a pivotal play in the game.

"We had a disagreement of sorts with the umpire at the time. That's the way the game is. In playoff baseball one thing can go your way or not go your way an affect the game. We've had some significant luck in this series as well, but tonight it went Moose Jaw's way," added Shorsher.

The Mavs looked to have a rally going when Scott led off the third inning with a double and advanced to third base on a bunt single by Michael Forgione with none out. Pluskota's double-play curbed the momentum for the visitors and livened up the Express dugout.

"I usually like playing infield better, but I feel pretty comfortable out there," said Pluskota who was the Express' every day third baseman last year. He had never played in the outfield until two seasons ago in college. He was thrown into the outfield in a 20-0 game, made a diving catch and suddenly became more versatile.

The Express added another run in the fourth when Cole Warken reached on an infield single and came around to score thanks to a Pluskota sacrifice fly. Andrew Soloman hit a solo home run in the eighth inning in his first action of the series.

Rusty Edwards pitched the ninth inning for the Express and gave up a solo home run to Sheldon Daquioag.

Medicine Hat starter Jon Rand allowed 12 hits and three earned runs as he went the distance over eight innings. 

The Express will host the Mavericks Monday night (7 p.m., Ross Wells Park) in Game 4 as they try to force a deciding fifth game back in Medicine Hat.

Both teams will start the pitchers of record from Game 1 Monday night. Jason Renner will start for Moose Jaw after coming out of the bullpen in the 11-inning loss. Opening game winner Kenton Schroter will start for the Mavs.

Forgione, the Mavericks shortstop and leadoff hitter, hurt his left shoulder after diving to try to get to an Aidan Stinnett single in the  third inning. It was believed Forgione may have completely separated his shoulder on the play.

"I don't want to speculate too much at this point because I haven't heard from him and he's still at the hospital, but it doesn't look good," said Shorsher. 

The Express will be without centrefielder Miles Hunter for the rest of the series. The first-team WMBL all-star has to return to Calgary to resume his preparations for medical school in the fall. Hunter was 7-for-12 at the plate in the series.

Organizations: Western Major Baseball League, Moose Jaw Miller Express

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Devils Lake, Medicine Hat Ross Wells Park Calgary

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