Silver Sox hold on vs. Chico
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – With a seven-run lead and flamethrower Nate Sevier coming into the game in the ninth inning, the Reno Silver Sox looked to have the first-place Chico Outlaws handcuffed.
But the Outlaws made it interesting, roughing up Sevier and closer Scott Schneider for five runs before a great leaping catch by shortstop C.J. Lang and Schneider clamped down to give the Silver Sox a 12-10 win over Chico Thursday in front of 1,787 fans at Peccole Park.
Reno won three of four games from Chico in its last regular-season homestand.
“They (the Outlaws) never gave up,” said Les Lancaster, manager for Reno, which moved to within four games of the Outlaws with a four-game series at Chico left to go in the regular season. “They kept swinging the bats. Sometimes when a pitcher has a big lead, he relaxes and leaves the ball up. They next thing you know, you have them knocking on the door to win.”
With Chico down 12-5 entering the ninth, newly acquired Henry Calderon led off the inning with a solo homer off Sevier. After surrendering a double to Bobby Gandolfo and walking Desi Wilson, Sevier gave up an RBI-single to Mike Mallory and Chico was within 12-7.
Schneider entered the game and hit Jason Van Meetren with a pitch to load the bases. He struck out Jim Wallace, but surrendered a three-run double to Lino Garcia to make it 12-10.
Jesse Kovacs’ bloop-double put the go-ahead run at the plate, but Lang made a possible game-saving leap into the air to snag pinch hitter Jason Matteucci’s liner for the second out. Schneider got Calderon to fly out to right to end the suspense and give first-half champion Reno a win in its final regular season game.
“I picked it up off the bat,” said the 5-foot-9 Lang, a 2002 Reed High School graduate of Matteucci’s drive. “I don’t have that good of hops, so I knew I had to jump as high as I could. Luckily, it was just enough.”
With the win, third-place Reno improved to 19-17 in the second half and 44-32 overall, while Chico fell to 23-13, 45-31. Fullerton entered the night only one game back of Chico and will finish with a four-game series against fifth-place Yuma.
If nothing else, the win gave the Silver Sox some added momentum heading into their final series of the regular season.
“It was good for us to beat them,” Lang said. “They are a good team, For us to take three of four was good for us heading into the championships.”
Lancaster, whose team hosts the first two Golden Baseball League playoff games Aug. 30-31, concurred.
“It was definitely important,” Lancaster said of the win. “We still have a shot at the best overall record and if for some reason Chico’s in the playoffs, we have the fifth game here.”
The Sox also benefited from a big night by left fielder James Shanks, who went 2-for-5, with a two-run homer in the eighth and had 5 RBI.
“He brings a lot to the lineup,” Lancaster said of Shanks, who drilled his sixth homer of the season against reliever George Huguet. “When you look at his stats, they’re outstanding. You see why he was a .300 hitter in the minors, hit homers and stole bases. He brings speed, which also helps us out. He’s real aggressive on base and brings power with speed.”
Shanks’ blast to right center increased Reno’s lead to 12-5. He also had a three-run double in the sixth to give the Sox an 8-5 lead after Chico had four runs in the top of the inning to knot it 5-5.
The Silver Sox got off to a good start against Chico starter Phil Springman, jumping up 3-0 on a solo homer by Demond Smith in the third. Catcher Masashi Chikazawa put the Sox up by two in the second with an RBI-double and later scored when Doug Gredvig reached first on a throwing error by Chico’s shortstop.
Gredvig hit his ninth homer of the season – a two-run shot – to give Reno a 5-1 lead in the fourth.
Springman lasted four innings, giving up five runs. A.J. Ampi (1-2) took the loss, going 1 2/3 innings and giving up three runs and two hits. Aaron Taylor and Huguet pitched a combined 3 1/3 innings, surrendering three runs and six hits.
Mid-reliever Mike McTamney (2-0) got the win for the Sox, entering the game with one down in the sixth. Starter Chris Marini gave up five runs and seven hits, walking two and striking out five.
Lancaster didn’t express a preference for which team – Chico or Fullerton – he’d rather face in the playoffs, but said Fullerton would be an interesting matchup.
“For some reason we haven’t done well with Fullerton,” Lancaster said. “We went down there and got guys in scoring position, but we couldn’t get guys across the plate. We’re different offensively now if we face them. They have outstanding pitching, no doubt about it, but with the offense we have now we could put more pressure on them.”
Reno begins its four-game road set with Chico today at 7:05 p.m.
Notes: The Silver Sox named catcher Marcus Jensen their Most Valuable Player of the Season. Schneider, who tied the GBL’s season save record with 17 (set by Chico’s Mike Gits last season), was their Most Valuable Pitcher. Infielder Evan Sobel won their Extra Effort Award.