Playing in front of approximately 8,000 people at Kino Veterans Stadium in Tucson Monday, the Invaders and Saguaros played what Roswell coach Bryan Kloppe called “high-level professional baseball,” with the Invaders ultimately coming out on top of an 8-4 pitching duel.
With all the scoring coming in a mere four innings, it was indeed a night for the pitchers, although the Roswell bats had some fireworks of their own before the postgame July 4 show.
Invader starter Blake Oliver was perfect through three full innings, and after giving up three runs on four hits and a wild pitch in the fourth to tie the game, he allowed just one more hit and a walk through six complete.
“He’s a fierce competitor,” Kloppe said of Oliver. “It’s fun to watch him pitch every time. And then the whole bullpen did an amazing job tonight.”
And when he says the whole bullpen, he’s not kidding.
From the seventh through the ninth, Kloppe threw six [auth] relievers: Kyle Perez, who got the win with a one-inning performance; TJ Pruneda (yes, the starter); Ryan Ward; Mike Scimanico, who made his professional debut; Evan Karre; and Thomas Huddleston.
“I wanted to give everybody a chance to pitch in front of this crowd,” Kloppe said. “Our bullpen is awesome. We’ve got two days off so I just gave everybody a chance to participate and everyone did good.”
They did indeed. The only other Saguaro run came in the ninth off a single from Scimanico, a walk by Karre, a fielder’s choice and an Invader error.
The Tucson pitchers didn’t do badly, either.
Starter Steven Borkowski went four, allowing three runs on six hits. But he also walked seven, and two of those came into play in the second, when Roswell went up 3-0.
Cody Coffman led off with a double, Christian Johnson singled and then Coffman scored on an Oliver sacrifice fly.
Rene Moreda singled between walks to Brett Balkan and Roche Woodard, whose free pass brought in the second run for Roswell.
Cody Bishop reached on a fielder’s choice to bring in the third run. But Borkowski and two relievers rebounded and held the Invaders scoreless through the eighth, when they finally teed off on the fourth Saguaro reliever.
“Their starter did well,” Kloppe said. “We made him throw a lot of pitches to get into their pen. That’s our goal every night.”
And facing reliever Brandon Cook, Roswell sent eight batters to the plate, scoring five runs on five hits.
Woodard led off with a single, stole second, then Bishop singled. Kaohu Gaspar scored Woodard on a sac bunt, then Bobby Webb singled, Coffman walked and Bryce Skelton came on to deliver a big pinch hit with two outs.
“Bryce Skelton had a huge pinch hit,” Kloppe said. “Full count, bases loaded, 3 RBI double. That made the lead to four. That was huge.”
It was, but the scoring wasn’t done yet.
After Skelton went to third on a wild pitch, he scored on a Balkan single. And while Moreda connected on a final single, Tucson closer Tyler Herr finally got out of the inning with no more runs coming across.
Coffman led the offense, going 3-for-3 with two runs scored. Moreda was 3-for-6, while Woodard was 2-for-4 with one run and an RBI; and Bishop 2-for-6 with a run and RBI.
The Invaders (32-14) wrap up their regular-season meetings against Tucson (34-13) with a two-game series lead. The Saguaros still lead in the standings by 1.5 games, but Kloppe is pleased where his team stands with only a few more weeks left in the regular season.
“It was a great series,” he said.
Roswell now has a two-day break before getting back in action at home at Joe Bauman Field Thursday against the Salina Stockade with a scheduled start time of 7 p.m.