Moose Jaw Miller Express 2022 Season Preview

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By IAN WILSON

From patrolling the outfield at Ross Wells Park in Moose Jaw to being named the head coach of the Miller Express, Eric Marriott is finally ready to usher in a new era of baseball for the club.

It’s been a long time coming for Marriott, who played two seasons for the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) team in 2018-19, and was later selected as the skipper in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to the diamond dreams of the Miller Express the last two seasons but they’re ready to crank things up again.

“We have an exciting roster coming to Moose Jaw this summer,” said Marriott.

“We have multiple guys that will be leaders in the clubhouse and fan favourites on the field. This summer we will have a mix of underclassmen, as well as upperclassmen ball players looking to compete every night from all over Canada and the U.S.A.”

Added Marriott: “I fully expect Ross Wells Park in Moose Jaw to be rocking all summer long with WCBL baseball back in town.”

Assistant coach Michael Gonzalez will help Marriott this season. The West New York, New Jersey native has three years of college coaching experience and he won two New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) championships, one as a player and the other as an assistant coach.

RETURNING PLAYERS

A pair of returnees will be key for the ball club – they include relief pitcher Reece Helland and shortstop Zach Campbell.

Helland is a local product who appeared in 12 games for Moose Jaw in 2019, racking up 19 Ks and posting a 2.95 earned run average (ERA) in 21.1 innings out of the bullpen that year. Playing for MidAmerica Nazarene University (MNU) this year, the righthander has logged 25.1 innings for the Pioneers, going 2-2 with a save and 26 strikeouts in that time.

Campbell – who is from Warren, Ohio – suited up in 43 regular season contests for the Miller Express in 2019 and registered 17 runs and 15 runs batted in (RBI) that summer. He’s currently sporting green for Tiffin University, where he’s batting .307 with a .465 on-base percentage and 44 runs in 44 games this season.

“I loved the¬†atmosphere playing at Ross Wells Park a couple years ago and I’m looking forward to winning a lot of games this summer in front of the Miller fans,” said Campbell.

FRESH FACES

Among the newcomers to the team are outfielders Kalli Einarson, Cam Grant, Michael Speck and Nate Mensik.

Einarson played in the Canadian College Baseball Conference this year with the University of Calgary Dinos, while Grant has suited up for Skyline College. Speck appeared in 45 games with Spalding University this season and batted .314 with 44 runs and 39 RBI. He also stole eight bases. Mensik is a redshirt sophomore out of Doane University.

Joining Campbell in the infield are third baseman Parker Dorrance, out of Northeast Community College, and second sackers Dawson Tweet and Luke Lachance.

Dorrance has played 114 games for the Hawks over the last two years, batting .347 with 106 RBI along the way.

Views of freshly paved and newly painted sections of Ross Wells Park in Moose Jaw.

Tweet, meanwhile, has family connections to the Moose Jaw area.

“My dad grew up in Moose Jaw, so I’m really excited to spend some time in the town he used to play baseball in,” said Tweet, who grew up in Russell, Manitoba.

“Moose Jaw is also really close to some of my family, so it’s going to be fun having them be able to watch me play.”

In 40 games for Doane University, Lachance put together a .290 batting average while scoring 21 runs and claiming eight stolen bases.

Manning first base for the Miller Express are the Barrett brothers, Greyson and Hudson. Greyson played 25 games for the Edmonton Prospects in 2019. This season at Texas Wesleyan University, he smacked nine homers and contributed 37 RBI in 41 games. The younger Hudson, a freshman with the University of California Santa Barbara, is capable of playing in the outfield and serving as a southpaw pitcher, in addition to handling first base duties.

Luke Shekeryk, who played for the Yorkton Cardinals in 2019, is expected to serve as Moose Jaw’s designated hitter much of the summer. The Seattle product can also fill in at first base.

Look for Martin Rodriquez and Robert Gurney to gear up behind the dish. Rodriquez started 18 games for the Minot State University Beavers in 2022, and Gurney is a freshman with the College of the Desert Roadrunners originally from Campbell River, B.C.

MILLERS ON THE MOUND

Another Doane University addition is pitcher Kellan Voggesser, a 6-foot-3 righty from Colorado. Voggesser struck out 32 batters in 23 innings during 13 NAIA appearances this season.

Joining the Miller Express out of Fresno City College is lefty hurler Andrew Barger. He recorded 20 Ks in 12.1 innings this year.

Nick Hill, a recent Lansing Community College commit, is another southpaw threat who will see time on the bump for Moose Jaw.

Fans can also look for Butte, Montana’s Liam Sommer on the mound this summer. With the University of Mary Marauders, Sommer worked 18.2 innings, going 1-1 with a save while posting 18 Ks in 2022.

Ross Wells Park – which has the capacity to handle up to 640 people – saw some upgrades recently, including enhancements to the beer gardens, new pavement throughout the park, updated club seating, fixed up fencing in some areas and fresh coats of paint on the stadium walls, grandstand and outfield.

The season opener and first home date for the Moose Jaw Miller Express takes place on Friday, May 27th when the Medicine Hat Mavericks visit town. The first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.