Looking for a free lunch? Ask Osiel Flores about it, because after Sunday night’s heroics at the Stadium, the Roadrunner catcher can afford to spring for it.
The McAllen native and UTPA ex bombed a home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth inning, giving his squad a 5-4 win over visiting San Angelo. The win against the first-place Colts was as dramatic as it gets, with the teams combining for six runs in the final three innings. Flores’ clout, which just cleared its way into the left-field bullpen, sent the home folks home happy.
As he circled the net behind home plate, collecting dollar bills from the pleased locals (and a few hugs and high fives to boot) Flores, in his first year with the Runners, admitted that this was his first game-winning round-tripper.
“Yeah, it’s sweet!” smiled Flores as he stuffed a batting helmet with cash money. “I have a lot of family in the stands, too. Hey, can you grab that one? Wow, a 10!”
The expense was worth it for the Runners (7-9), who’d limped to a 1-3 trip on Harlingen earlier in the week to drop into fifth place. The Colts (11-6) came in No. 1 in the loop, leading in hitting (.320) and team ERA (3.39, with Edinburg second at 4.57).
And for a stretch it looked like the Runners were going to lose for the seventh time in their last eight games. They took a 4-3 lead in the eighth with a pair of runs, as Robert Matlock started a rally by beating out an infield hit. Vincent Blue’s ringing triple to deep left plated Matlock and then Carlos Hereaud knocked in Blue with an RBI single, his second run-batted-in of the contest.
But Kelly Casares, who had made seven scoreless relief appearances to date, came on and threw a bunt attempt away for a two-base error to start the ninth. With two out, Hunter Jobes singled in the tying run for San Angelo. Casares fanned Butch Ballez with runners at second and third to end the inning.
Manager Vince Moore and the Runners were livid earlier in that frame, when a close balls-strikes call went against Edinburg.
Moore yelled to the umpire, “That’s on you, blue!” and in the dugout between innings he implored his players to get fired up.
“Let’s go, now, let’s go! Leave ‘em out there.”
And that’s what they did, as Flores lined the initial offering of the ninth from reliever Douglas Brandt into the night. In a flash, the Roadrunners had begun a key homestand heading in the right direction.
Eric Montoya started for the Valley nine, and struck out seven batters through five innings, with consistent first-pitch strikes (usually breaking balls) and his usual tough-minded effort. The Roadrunners put together a pair in the third as Nick Aranda bunted for a hit and scored on a solid single to center by Blue. Hereaud scored Blue with a base hit and Montoya went into the seventh up 2-1, despite the fact that his team had been outhit 8-4 to that juncture.
But infield defense was iffy Sunday, as Hereaud, normally a second baseman, made three miscues at third. After Bryan Frichter, the league’s leading hitter at .462, doubled with one down, Hereaud booted Jason Landreth’s grounder, and it was tied.
As stated, Frichter had a hand in the Colt eighth, when the league leaders tied things versus reliever Bryan Martin. The lefty had replaced Montoya in the eighth, allowing a triple and a single to surrender the lead. Frichter took off from third with the lefty Jobes swinging away, a super-risky move that paid off.
But Edinburg rallied resolutely, getting two in the eighth and one in the ninth to strike first blood in the 4-game series that continues tonight.
Matlock, among the league’s leading hitters with an average in the .340s, said that the club hasn’t been able to get both the sticks and the arms on the same page lately.
“When the hitters produce, the pitchers struggle and vice versa,” said the Tennessee native. “But that’s just baseball. This one was a good one to win tonight.”