Friday, July 9, 2010

Grizzlies rally to beat Foxes

FORT COLLINS, Colo.—The Cheyenne Grizzlies took advantage of two costly errors to score two runs in the eighth inning Friday night to come from behind and defeat the Fort Collins Foxes 2-1 in Fort Collins.

The Grizzlies and Foxes were locked in a pitcher’s duel, with the only run of the game being an unearned run for the Foxes in the seventh inning.

At that point, it looked as if the Grizzlies would drop their fourth consecutive game and fall three games behind the first-place Foxes. But two runs in the eighth inning resulted in the team’s first late-inning come-from-behind victory of the season.

“Things didn’t go exactly as we planned for them, but our guys fought and fought,” said assistant coach Luke Wetmore, who was filling in for head coach Aaron Holley who is serving a two-game suspension for his ejection last week.

Prior to Friday, Cheyenne was 0-8 when trailing entering the eighth inning.

Jose Jauregui singled with one out in the eighth to start the rally. Third baseman Ryan Javech followed Jauregui’s single up with a base hit of his own, but when the center fielder bobbled the ball, Jauregui moved to third.

With the throw going to third, Javech moved up to second, but an errant throw by third baseman Travis Wilcox, trying to gun down Javech at second, allowed Jauregui to score.

“Their reliever wasn’t as sharp as their starter was, so we took a little advantage of that,” Wetmore said. “And you know, they gave us an opportunity there, they really did. That tied it up for us and then a clutch two-out hit scored the go-ahead run.”

One out later, the Grizzlies rattled off three consecutive singles, the first by catcher Jefre Johnson scoring Javech to put the Grizzlies up 2-1.

Mike Lessig, who was phenomenal, retired the first two outs in the eighth, but left with a runner on second. Josh Boyer made a surprise appearance to finish the inning, striking out left fielder Anthony Guglielmi on three pitches.

“It was Josh’s pen day, so I wanted him to throw today to allow him to get work and stay sharp and I just had a gut feeling with him against the lefty hitter,” Wetmore said. “That was a huge, momentum-changing out.”

Overlooked by the late-inning comeback was the performance of Lessig. He allowed a single to the second hitter of the game, but didn’t allow another batter to reach by base hit again until the seventh inning.

“We’ve kind of struggled with the bats lately so I just wanted to go out there and limit their base runners to put us in position to win,” Lessig said. “I was getting ahead real well with fastballs and then going to off-speed, as usual. A lot of guys were swinging at first-pitch fastballs, allowing me to keep my pitch count low.”

At one point, he retired seven consecutive and 10 of 11 batters, and struck out nine in 7 2/3 innings. His only blemish was an unearned run. He allowed three hits and two walks.

“Defensively, we did everything we could to win that game,” Wetmore said. “We allowed one run between three pitchers. Lessig threw a great game, Boyer came in and got the huge out and then Jack lived on the edge there, but he challenged the hitters and wasn’t afraid to throw strikes.”

Closer Jack Winters worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, thanks to the help of a great running catch deep in center field by Kevin Logan, to record his fifth save of the season. It was one of the few times that Winters has entered with just a one-run lead.

“Being the closer, I know I can handle pressure a little bit,” Winters said. “I know I have (Kevin) Logan out there and he can track the balls down and bail me out, he’s done it before. Especially in a one-run game, you’ve got to throw strikes. If the leadoff guy gets on, they can do a number of things—they can steal, they can bunt—so you really have to work on getting that first hitter out.”

The offense, who just one week ago was averaging nearly nine runs a game, continues to struggle, scoring just six runs over the past four games. But Friday, they were able to do enough to get the win.

With the win, the Grizzlies gain a game on the Foxes, moving one game behind them in the season standings.

“It’s huge to get a win (Friday), especially against these guys to gain a game back on them,” Lessig said.

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