Vincent Blue had seen this guy before, in AA ball a few years back. But still, Laredo closer Tristan Crawford had been firing nothing but 93 mph cheese through 3 2/3 innings Saturday, holding the Roadrunners hitless. In the 10th inning, Blue used his experience to the benefit of his new team, stroking a single up the middle to score Robert Matlock from second base, handing the Runners an 8-7 win and their third straight triumph of the 2009 season.
Blue, a Houston native who was drafted out high school by the Detroit Tigers in 2001, has a lengthy minor league resume, and the lanky outfielder came through against the impressive Crawford, who pitched in the World Baseball Classic last year for Australia.
“It feels good to get the game-winning hit,” said Blue, who climbed as high as AAA before landing in independent ball. “It just opened up for me and I had a good cut at it. I have faced him before and so I kind of knew what to look for.”
Blue’s clutch work ended a wild one, a good one to win and a terrible one to lose. Laredo got out to an early lead when former Edinburg slugger Argelio Nunez smacked a two-run single off former University of Texas-Pan American star Tim Haines in the first. But the 23-year-old Haines, who won 10 games as a swingman the past two years for Fort Worth in the American Association, settled down to strike out six in 5 1/3 innings, and the Runners manufactured two runs and would lead 3-2 after two. Haines left down 4-3 in the sixth after third baseman Eric Gonzalez’ throw to the plate on a based-loaded bouncer hit the runner in the helmet, allowing two runs.
From there, the Broncos padded their lead to 5-3 into the sixth, whereupon the Roadrunners came alive to take the advantage. Amado German singled in a run and then Osiel Flores was hit by a pitch with the sacks juiced to tie it. Matlock walked, one of nine free passes issued by Laredo hurlers, to give the home team the edge in front of 1,400 spectators at the Stadium.
Ricardo Serrano came on in relief for Edinburg, but Laredo took the lead back in the seventh with a series of cheapie hits and a throwing error on second baseman Andre Hereaud. Each team committed four miscues in what Runner manager Vince Moore called a “sloppy game all around.”
Edinburg got even in the eighth on a run-scoring bounceout from shortstop Angel “Bolsillos Altos” Reyes. Meanwhile, lefty Austin Bridges was blanking the Broncos opposite of Crawford, who stymied the Roadrunners with a blazing fastball and a nasty 88 mph slider.
With two outs and two on in the Laredo 10th, Bridges yielded to UTPA grad Ray Silva (1-0), who got out of the jam with a grounder to third, and up came the Runners looking for their third win in a row to start the year.
It started well, looked bad, and then got great.
Flores popped one to right that eluded the fielder for an error. Matlock laid down a bunt to third with two strikes. The throw to first was way off but somehow second baseman Miguel Ortiz, hustling for the backup, snared the carom and reversed field, firing to third to nip Flores, who like everyone else in the house assumed the ball had gone on through to the outfield.
After Unique Johnson fanned, Blue came to the dish and eventually handled the high heat from Crawford for a solid bingle to center that sent Matlock dashing in for the win.
NOTES: Disaster may have struck again for hard-luck outfielder Nick Aranda. He made a diving stab of a liner in left field with the game tied at 7 in the seventh, but had to leave the game after dislocating his shoulder. The severity of the injury remains to be seen, but this marks the third season in a row that the hustling outfielder has suffered a shoulder problem.
It was T-shirt giveaway night at the Stadium, and Army Sgt. Raul Luevano (EHS grad, 1986) tossed out one of two ceremonial first pitches, with Edinburg Little Leaguer Gabriel Amaya throwing the other.