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Toros walk off field with victory in opener

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Tucson Toros baseball

Toros walk off field with victory in opener

  • Catcher Luis Apodaca has a mound conference with starting pitcher Vince Davis at the Toros home opener at Hi Corbett Field.
    Kim Hartman/TucsonSentinel.comCatcher Luis Apodaca has a mound conference with starting pitcher Vince Davis at the Toros home opener at Hi Corbett Field.

Opening their second season at home, the Tucson Toros won a dramatic walk off victory against the Edmonton Capitals on Wednesday night at Hi Corbett Field, 5-4.

With the bases loaded in the ninth, the Toros won on a walk by second baseman Jose Valdez to earn their first victory of the season.

After the Capitals picked up two in the first and one in the second, they got to Toro starter Vince Davis again in the fifth and led 4-1.

The Toros tied the game on a bases-clearing triple by Wally Backman Jr. off of Ryan Paul with three on in the eighth.

Before Backman’s game-changing knock, Capitals’ starting pitcher Alexander Francisco silenced the Toros’ lineup sacrificing only one run and six hits over the course of six innings.

“The first seven innings, we were stopped a lot when we put the ball in play,” said Lino Garcia, who went 4 for 4. “But in the eighth, we finally had a chance with guys in scoring position and it got a rally going for us.”

Backed by closer Emilio Fruto (1-0), the Toros held the Capitals scoreless in the top of the ninth.

“The difference between the first seven innings and the last two was the character of the ballclub – the guys never gave up,” Toros manager Tim Johnson said. “But the biggest thing was probably the pitching of (Andrew) Snowdon. He really came in and shut the hitters down, got the job done and stopped their momentum.”

Snowdon relieved Davis in the sixth and pitched three hitless and scoreless innings and struck out four.

Davis went five innings, giving up four runs on 10 hits.

First win at home sets season tone

The Toros won their opening game last season against the Chico Outlaws.

The team won the Southern Division in the second half and went on to play in the Golden Baseball League Championship Series against Calgary after beating St. George (Utah) Roadrunners 3-2 in the first round. The Toros lost to the Vipers 3-1.

How significant is their win against the Capitals tonight?

“If you win the first game, it always sets the tone for the season,” Garcia said. “It’s always good for team chemistry to start the season with a win.”

Johnson shares Garcia’s opinion.

“Winning a home opener is always significant,” Johnson said. “You always want to show the fans something special on the first day. Like tonight – they go home and they say, ‘Boy, these guys rallied back and came back.’ It makes fans come back (to the park) and enjoy it.”

Speaking of the fans, the Toros are currently the only baseball team – above the collegiate level – in town, and team president Jay Zucker hopes this will increase attendance.

“Any time you’re filling a void, people are going to seek it out,” Zucker said. “If there’s no baseball, I think they’ll go to where there’s an opportunity to see it. Tucson is a baseball town. It’s a baseball community.”

Attendance in the home opener was 3,287. Last year, the Toros drew 139,149 fans through 38 games with an average attendance of 3,661 per game. The Victoria (British Columbia) Seals were second in the GBL with 93,691.

New additions

Recently signed starting pitcher Matt Lincoln and catcher Cody Pride are anticipated to have a strong impact on the team.

The 26-year-old Lincoln was an 8th round selection in 2003 and had a cumulative ERA of 2.57 between Single-A and rookie ball.

The Mississippi Valley State alum, Pride, 22, made his professional debut last season with San Angelo of the United League.

“Matt (Lincoln) has really good stuff, and we expect good things from him,” Toros general manager Sean Smock said. “He performed really well for us in spring training and made the team. Cody (Pride) is a great piece of young talent. He comes out and works hard every day.”

Up next

The Toros home stand continues with games against the Capitals on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

They host the Calgary Vipers for three games beginning Sunday.

All games at Hi Corbett Field, 3400 E Camino Campestre. First pitch at 7 p.m.

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