TUCSON, Ariz. — It was a tough weekend in Tucson and Bisbee Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with weather and contested calls resulting in only one win and a pair of losses in three close games.
Friday’s game at Kino Veterans Stadium was rained out, and is only scheduled to be made up if the standings require it.
Saturday, field manager Brian Kloppe was ejected in the third inning and had to watch the games from the stands while coach Relly Mercurio took over the managerial duties in a 6-5 loss to the Saguaros.
Tucson pitcher Randy Keen had a strong four innings, getting out of a bases-loaded situation in the first to hold the Invaders scoreless.
The Saguaros, meanwhile, picked away at first-time starter Ryan Calby, who gave up a run in the second on two singles, a wild pitch and fielder’s choice, and two in the third on a double and two singles.
The Roswell hitters finally got on the board in the fifth, jumping on Keen for four runs and four hits.
Singles by Brett Balkan and Cody Bishop, a walk to Rene Moreda and two fielder’s choices made it 3-1. But with two out, Bobby Webb walked and Jim Smith and Christian Johnson followed with RBI singles.
The sixth, seventh and eighth were scoreless for Roswell, while the Saguaros tied it at 4-all in the seventh on a single and triple [auth] off reliever Kyle Perez, then took a 6-4 lead in the eighth off Alex Dandridge, who walked the first three batters he faced then gave up two runs on outs.
“It was the wrong situation for a rookie,” Kloppe said.
The Invaders tried to come back in the ninth when Bishop doubled and with two outs, Smith singled him in. But that was all Roswell could manage, giving Tucson the victory.
Kloppe said the game shouldn’t have come down to that as a call that initially was ruled in Roswell’s favor was changed, turning a two out, runners on first and third situation into a third out.
“They erroneously overturned a call for (Tucson),” Kloppe said. “We have it on video that it’s wrong. They said a ball hit Rene Moreda when he was running yesterday and it was four feet away. It wasn’t even close. That had an effect on the game when they called him out.”
But Kloppe, who was watching the game from the stands at that time, couldn’t do anything to protest.
BISBEE, Ariz. — The Invaders and Saguaros traveled to Bisbee, Ariz., to play two seven-inning games in the historic Warren Ballpark, and both matches were pitchers duels, Roswell winning the first contest 5-1 and Tucson the nightcap 3-2.
“First game was great,” Kloppe said. “Everything went to plan then the second game we were right in it and they just hit a walk off in the seventh.”
Backed up by lone run in the first off a Roche Woodard triple and Bishop putout, Invader starter David Johnson pitched four brilliant innings in the opener, allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out four.
Reliever Lance Fairchild gave up only one hit — a home run in the bottom of the seventh — and the Invaders scored four in the top of the sixth, more than enough to get the win.
Bishop and Webb both singled and advanced on a wild pitch. Then, with two outs, Smith walked and Kahou Gaspar singled, scoring both runners.
Brett Balkan singled, scoring Smith, and a Moreda single brought in Gaspar, sending Tucson starter Brian Luebcke to the showers and Aaron Smith closed out the game for the Saguaros.
With only nine hits by the Invaders, three players — Moreda, Webb and Balkan — had two hits each.
Game 2 was even closer, with another solid pitching effort on both sides.
The newest Invader, Mike Gomez, who played two years in the White Sox organization, only allowed two hits in the first three innings. He allowed a one-out solo home run in the third, then, after walking the next two batters, was relieved by Perez, who gave up an RBI single making it 2-0 Tucson.
Roswell got its first run in the fifth on a one-strike long ball by Gaspar. The Invaders got two singles in the inning — three of their five hits in the game — but couldn’t bring the runners in.
And that’s where it stood, 2-1, through the do-or-die top of the seventh. And facing reliever David Robles, Gaspar — the only Invader with more than one hit — singled. He was out on a fielder’s choice by Christian Johnson, but then Robles lost his control.
He walked Bryce Skelton, hit Balkan and threw a wild pitch that brought in Johnson, tying it at 2-2. But the other two were stranded, and the game went into the bottom of the seventh, with Lance Fairchild coming in to close things down.
And he did, for two batters, striking out the first two he faced. But then, in a quirk of baseball fate, former Invader Michael Morris hit a shot out of the park to get the victory for Tucson.
“We played well today,” Kloppe said. “I’m proud of the team so we’re in good shape tomorrow.”
That final game vs. the league leaders (34-12) started at 8:10 p.m. Mountain Time on Monday night.
The Invaders (31-14) get their first days off of the season today and Wednesday — “That’ll be really nice. We need it,” Kloppe said — then come home to face the Salina Stockade July 7-10.