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Aviators Tame Cats 10-8 in Extra Inning Thriller

July 31, 2007 - American Association (AA) - Coastal Bend Aviators News Release

Tim Haines nearly let the moment slip through his hands. Instead he dug in and gave his team momentum they'd ride to a thrilling 10-8 extra inning victory over Fort Worth.

With the game tied at 6 in the bottom of the ninth Haines fielded a grounder by leadoff batter Kelly Gulledge that should have been a routine out. But he committed the team's first error of the night when he threw the ball over the head of first baseman Bryon Smith, allowing Gulledge to not only reach base, but to advance all the way to third. With no one out, Haines' only chance to keep the game alive was by striking batters out. He did just that, retiring Cats centerfielder Alan Moye and pinch hitter Trey Roberson swinging. After walking KJ Hendricks, he faced Cats third baseman Terrence Green with two out. Haines coaxed a ground out to second that sent the game to extra innings.

Fired up by his escape act, Haines' teammates scored four times in the extra frame off reliever Danny Valentin. A leadoff walk to Bryon Smith was followed by a Grant Richardson single through the left side. After a fielder's choice resulted in an out, Matt Spencer walked to load the bases. Phillip Grau drew another walk from Valentin to give Coastal Bend the lead 7-6 before the newest Aviator came through with a big hit. Making his professional debut, Baylor University product Chase Gerdes had gone 0 for 3 to that point in the ballgame. Facing Valentin, he singled up the middle to score Spencer and Grau, pushing the lead to 9-6. Brian Fryer then singled to right driving in another run and the Aviators went to the bottom of the tenth up 10-6.

In the home half, the second error of the night for Coastal Bend almost proved disastrous. Haines quickly retired the first two batters and walked a man. Chuck Carter then hit a grounder to second, that could have ended the game. But Will Lewis' throw pulled Smith off the first base bag and the inning continued. Given new life, the two time American Association champs forced the Aviators to hold their breath.

Gulledge's single to left plated a run and left men at the corners with two out. Haines' night came to an end as closer Tom Atlee was summoned from the bullpen to record the final out. He allowed a single to Moye that made the score 10-8 with runners on first and second. But Atlee struck out Roberson swinging to earn his 14th save and complete the third consecutive victory for Coastal Bend. The comeback win was just the 2nd time in 37 games the Aviators have rallied when trailing after seven innings.

The drama in the last inning and a half would not have occurred but for a 3 run surge in the top of the eighth. Trailing 6-3, the Aviators got doubles by Bryon Smith and Grant Richardson to close the gap to 6-4 before Stephen Morales tied the game on his fifth homerun of the season, a 2-run blast to left field.

Lost in the outcome for Fort Worth was a fine outing by stating pitcher Lee Gwaltney who pitched 7.1 solid innings. His replacement Aaron Marsden allowed the homerun to Morales, the first batter he faced, and Valentin's three walks and three hits in just one inning of work led to his third loss of the season (4-3). Derrick van Dusen started for Coastal Bend and struggled. He allowed 4 earned runs in 4 innings before being lifted for another new addition to the roster, Kevin Lee. Lee allowed just 1 hit and struck out 2 in two innings pitched.

Offensively for Coastal Bend, Lewis (3 for 5, 2R, RBI), Richardson (3 for 5, 3R, RBI), and James Lofton (3 for 6, 2 RBI) turned in fine performances. The team finished with 16 hits. Of Fort Worth's 11 total hits, Gulledge and Moye went a combined 7 for 11 with 3 runs scored and 4 RBI.

With the win, Coastal Bend (8-13) gains ground on the first place Cats (15-8), and are now 6 games back in the South Division standings. Game two of the three game series is tomorrow night at 7:05pm. Probable starters are TJ Hendricks (3-8, 7.41 ERA) for the Aviators and Nick Martin (6-5, 5.68) for Fort Worth. The game can be heard locally on KOPY 1070 AM and online.

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