Tucson Toros baseball
Toros miss win by inches, get swept by champions
Toros lose to 2009 GBL champions in first meeting since championship series
At times baseball can come down to a game of inches.
In an 11-inning game, balls were flying off the Toros’ bats but just missing getting over the wall. The Toros lost to the Calgary Vipers, 6-5, in the finale on Tuesday and were swept in the series.
It was the first meeting between the two teams since they played for the 2009 Golden Baseball League Championship.
“As soon as I hit the ball, I thought I had it,” Jose Valdez said, referring to his almost two-run homer, which would’ve won the game in the bottom of the 11th.
“When I was running around the bases, it was a great feeling – I thought the game was over. And then it was so disappointing when I saw that the ball didn’t make it.”
Valdez went 4 for 6 with 2 RBIs, including a two-run home run in the third.
The story was different for Vipers’ first baseman Matt Edgecombe, who did hit the game-winning home run over the right-center wall in the top of the 11th.
“I didn’t know it was gone when it came off the bat,” Edgecombe said. “I just put my head down when I was running and then took a peek and saw that it went over.
“I’ve been struggling at the plate and haven’t felt comfortable yet all season. But I’ve been working with the hitting coaches, and sometimes stuff falls my way. Tonight, things just swung my way.”
The Toros started out the game strong both offensively and defensively. They scored a run in the first inning and had a three-run third to take a 4-1 lead.
In addition to Valdez’s two-run shot in the third, Luis Apodaca had an RBI single to build the three run lead.
Vipers’ starting pitcher Brant Stickel pitched just 2 2/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits and two walks before being pulled.
In his first appearance for the Vipers, Danny Chaffardet came out with authority, striking out the side in his first inning of work, the sixth, before getting a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh.
“Working ahead (in the count) was effective for me tonight,” Chaffardet said. “My breaking pitch (slider) seemed to be working pretty good too.”
Chaffardet enters his fourth season of independent baseball this year. In 2009, he played for the South Louisiana Pipeliners of the Continental Baseball League, a professional league based in Texas. Chaffardet went 2-0 with an ERA of 2.57 in five games for the Pipeliners.
“Since it was my first appearance with the Vipers tonight, I wanted to just get in there and throw strikes,” Chaffardet said. “It felt great being out there. The guys are great. I have a solid infield, and I know they’re going to make the play (behind me).”
Starting Toros pitcher Albie Lopez commanded the mound through four innings, allowing just one run on four hits.
Things ended up getting difficult for the veteran in the fifth, when he gave up three runs on three hits.
“I wasn’t featuring anything tonight, I was just trying to get guys out and keep the game close,” Lopez said. “My defense was spectacular behind me, so I was letting (the Vipers) put the ball in play so my defense could take care of them. I was missing a couple of my pitches. I was really not throwing my best stuff tonight.”
Lopez went 6 2/3 innings on 10 hits, five runs and two walks before being lifted for Toby Nordman.
The game remained tied through six innings. Vipers manager Morgan Burkhart was ejected in the sixth for arguing balls and strikes.
In the top of the seventh, the Vipers took the lead on Edgecombe’s RBI single to put them ahead, 5-4.
The Vipers’ bullpen did not allow a hit through five innings.
The hitless streak was broken up by Ryan Priddy’s double in the eighth inning with two outs, when he hit a ball that fell just inside the right field line.
The Toros tied the game in the bottom of the ninth on Lino Garcia’s double off the center field wall. After nine innings, both teams had five runs on 12 hits and no errors.
The game remained scoreless in extra innings until Edgecombe’s homerun in the 11th. The Toros threatened in the bottom of the 11th with runners on first and third but couldn’t put a run across.
“This team has a lot more character and heart than other ballclubs I’ve been on,” Toros’ centerfielder Josh Womack said. “We always fight hard until the very end, even if we’re down, and we know we can always come back and win. So we’re not letting this (end of the homestand) get us down.”
The Toros' loss tonight puts them on a four-game losing streak. They face division rivals, the Yuma Scorpions, starting Thursday, May 27.
Womack leaves early
After a leadoff single to begin the game and a standup triple in the third, Womack exited the game with a right hamstring injury. He said his hamstring had been bothering him the last couple of weeks but had been doing a lot of rehabilitation in the training room.
“It felt great until I decided to leg out that triple,” Womack said. “It’s always hard to come out of the game on a high note like that.”
The center fielder went 2 for 2 in the game before Trevor Davidson hit for him.
“My plate discipline hasn’t been good lately, and I’ve been jumping at pitches that weren’t hittable,” Womack said. “So I was trying to hit pitches that were in the zone tonight,” Womack said. “I focused on trying to see the fastball well, and thankfully, it worked out tonight.”
Womack said he hopes to be back for the series against the Suns.