Smoke gets in their eyes, but Sox still win
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – As a fire in northwest Reno burned, a heavy, thick smoke shrouded Peccole Park as the Reno Silver Sox took a 7-4 victory over the Yuma Scorpions in front of 1,734 fans on Friday.
Silver Sox manager Les Lancaster was a Major League pitcher and he’s seen rain and snow and just about every other kind of weather. Friday’s fire was a bit different.
“That’s tough,” Lancaster said. “I’ve never seen that before. It’s bad enough to see the ball right now. You got smoke and everything in your eyes, burning a bit. My hat’s off to the defensive guys who were able to keep concentrating.”
Reno center fielder James Shanks was one of those players who was able to keep his eye on the ball and went 2-for-3 with 3 RBI, including a first-inning RBI-single, a third-inning solo home run and a seventh-inning sacrifice fly.
“That was kind of weird,” said Shanks, of Appling, Ga. “In the eighth inning I had the haze in my eyes. I’m used to seeing fog. That was the first time I’ve seen smoke in my career.”
Aside from the not-so-distant fire, Reno was able to get back on track offensively, putting up six runs in the first three innings, defensively by committing no errors, and from the mound as starter Everett Stull went seven innings to even his record at 2-2.
Stull spread out three runs and nine hits, Mike McTamney allowed one run and three hits in one inning of relief and closer Scott Schneider picked up his 14th save of the season – tops in the Golden Baseball League – and first-half champion Reno improved to 12-11 in league and 37-26 overall.
“Everett did what he had to do,” said Silver Sox left fielder D.J. Stacey, who hit his first homer of the season – a two-run blast to left to make it 5-1 in the second inning. “He gave us seven strong innings. McTamney came in and Schneider shut the door. Our bullpen is ready to take over.”
Stull wasn’t spectacular – he walked four and struck out three – but he was steady.
“He didn’t have his best stuff, but he made pitches when he had to,” Lancaster said. “He got ground balls and popups. His experience paid off.”
The Sox also took advantage of a rough night by former Major Leaguer Jorge Perez, who had a complete game against Reno in a 5-3 win July 25.
The 31-year-old Perez lasted seven innings this time, allowing all seven runs and 10 hits, while walking four and striking out three.
Two of those runs came off the bat of Stacey, who got his first round-tripper since leaving the Reno Astros.
“It felt pretty good to get that, boy,” said Stacey, a Galena High School product who went to Sacramento City College. “It was a 2-0 fastball. I was looking for something down and (Perez) gave it to me. Today he had one of those days he couldn’t hit his spots. He was leaving the ball up.”
After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first inning on an RBI double by Scorpions right fielder Andy Wilson, the Sox came right back in the bottom of the frame.
Designated hitter Masashi Chikazawa stroked a two-run double and Shanks hit an RBI-single to give Reno a 3-1 lead.
“The guys swung the bat tonight and everything,” Lancaster said. “(Perez) fell behind in the count and they took advantage of it. They were able to get up and take it to him. He’s pitching really well this year. Tonight he had an off night.”
After Stacey’s two-run dinger, the Scorpions answered in the third with an RBI-double by first baseman Jacob Guzman, but Reno came back in the bottom of the inning on Shanks’ homer to left center in the bottom of the inning for a 6-2 lead.
“I was just basically trying to relax and get something to drive,” said Shanks, who was drafted out of high school by the Royals in 1998 and played in the minors for the Marlins in 2003. “I’m trying to stay with the same approach and try not to change too much. I’m just trying to get in scoring position so that the guys can drive me in – get another run and put pressure on the opposing team.”
Guzman, who went 2-for-4, drilled a solo homer to draw his team within 6-3 in the seventh, but once again the Sox answered, this time with Shanks’ sacrifice fly.
“Basically we’re getting used to each other,” Shanks said. “I’m one of the new guys coming in. I wasn’t here in the beginning of the year. We’re trying to drive and bunt more, getting guys in. We’re playing small ball.”
Stacey senses an uptick in Reno’s play lately.
“Our bats are coming around and we’re getting a lot more timely hits,” Stacey said. “We’re getting runners in scoring position. When we were going into that little slump, (Lancaster) reminded us not to play like that. Just because we won the first half, we can’t take it easy in the second half. The team we will play (in the playoffs) will be hot.”
The Silver Sox remained in third place with the win, which dropped fifth-place Yuma to 8-16, 26-38.
“We’re trying to win every time and win the (second) half,” Lancaster said. “We want to put pressure on the other teams to win. We should have some other players soon. We have two committed, we’re just trying to get them signed.”
Henry Calderon had an RBI-single in the eighth for the Scorpions’ only other run.
James Johnson (2-1, 3.64 earned run average) will start for the Sox today in the second of the teams’ three-game set at Peccole Park, beginning at 6:35 p.m. The Scorpions’ starter has yet to be announced.