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Figueroa, Flores Lead Aviators Past Canaries

July 3, 2007 - American Association (AA) - Coastal Bend Aviators News Release

Juan Figueroa had multiple opportunities to affect the outcome of Tuesday night's game against the Sioux Falls Canaries. Nearly every time, he produced. Figueroa went 3 for 4 with 4 RBI in a 7-5 victory that got Coastal Bend on the winning track for the second half of the season. The game also saw the return of veteran pitcher Pedro Flores, who made his first start since leaving a June 20th game against Fort Worth with arm trouble.

Trailing 2-0 in the third inning and facing former major leaguer Pat Mahomes, the Aviators got a 2-out double from Grant Richardson. Figueroa then singled home the first Coastal Bend run of the night with a soft liner to right center. Flores had surrendered two RBI singles to the Canaries in the second inning on identical bloop singles between shortstop and left field. He went 6 innings, striking out 6, and held down the Sioux Falls attack while allowed his teammates fought to get back in the game.

The Aviators played superlative defense behind him. After a day of solid rains left field conditions but ideal, shortstop James Lofton and leftfielder Matt Spencer each turned in eye popping plays. Lofton made a diving stop on a hard liner to throw out a runner at first and Spencer rifled the ball home on a single to left which cut down a runner at the plate.

The Aviators did more 2-out damage in the fifth with Richardson, who also went 3 for 4, again providing the spark. His double off the base of the center field wall and Bryon Smith's base on balls brought Figueroa to the dish again with the chance to grab the lead. This time he tied the game on a flare to right center. After JD Foust (2 for 5, 2 RBI) was given new life on a dropped foul ball, he singled sharply up the middle to score Smith and give Coastal Bend a 3-2 lead.

Tim Haines replaced Flores in the seventh and cruised through 1 inning before giving way to Jonathan Hunton. Coming into the game, Hunton had been virtually untouched by opposition hitting. This night he had a rough outing, surrendering 3 runs on 3 hits in the top of the eighth including a homerun to left field by Sioux Falls' Will Quintana.

But the Aviators struck right back in the bottom of the eighth off reliever Kris Regas. Singles by Will Lewis, Spencer, and Lofton loaded the bases. Jerrod Fuell came on for Sioux Falls and Richardson hit a fly to deep right that was dropped by Quintana. Lewis scored on the play to draw the Aviators within a run at 5-4. After a grounder to the pitcher erased Spencer at home, Figueroa came up with the bases loaded. This time he knocked a single to center for a 6-5 lead. The Aviators added one more and closer Tom Atlee struck out the side to end it.

With the win the Aviators are 1-0 in the second half and will send Kevin Hull (4-3, 5.92 ERA) to the mound tomorrow to face lefty Ryan Ford (2-2, 4.15 ERA). The game can be heard locally on KOPY 1070 AM and online.

Notes: In his first at bat, Figueroa was robbed of a hit on an unusual play. He smashed a hard liner that ricocheted off the first baseman's glove to the second baseman who flipped to the pitcher at first for the out.

In an announcement made Tuesday morning, James Lofton and centerfielder Brian Fryer were elected to the American Association All-Star Team. They will represent Coastal Bend at the league All-Star Game which will be played July 17th at Sioux Falls, SD.

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