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Rainiers Continue Championship Chase with 10-8 Series-Opening Win at El Paso (Magic # Is 3)

September 17, 2021 - Triple-A West League (AAA West) - Tacoma Rainiers News Release

El Paso, TX - The Tacoma Rainiers (70-45) remained red hot on Thursday night, beginning their road trip with a 10-8 victory over the El Paso Chihuahuas (44-71). The Rainiers have won five straight, 10 of 11 and 16 of 19 in their pursuit of the Triple-A West regular season championship. Sugar Land clinched their division with a 6-4 win at home over Albuquerque on Thursday, but continue to trail Tacoma by three games with only five to play in the overall league standings. The Rainiers are now 35-15 in the second half of the season (since July 22).

In a typically El Paso high-scoring affair, the home side jumped out to a 4-0 lead with four base hits and a walk in the first inning. In the third however, Tacoma roared back with their 16th inning scoring five or more runs this season, anchored by a three-run Brian O'Keefe homer, estimated at over 400 feet to centerfield. Jantzen Witte had previously gotten the Rainiers in the run column for the first time with a triple to center, scoring Donnie Walton following a walk.

The Chihuahuas nipped back to tie the game 5-5 in the fourth, when a Gosuke Katoh double eventually scored after a fly ball and a ground out. But in the visiting fifth O'Keefe teed off on his second homer of the night, his 12th since being promoted to Triple-A, an opposite field solo shot to put Tacoma back in front. It was 7-5 after Marcus Wilson walked, Luis Liberato singled and Walton delivered an RBI single.

For O'Keefe, in his first career game at El Paso, it was also his first Triple-A game with two home runs. It was the 10th time the feat had been accomplished by a Tacoma hitter this season (Jose Marmolejos x3, Jarred Kelenic x2, Sam Travis x2, Jake Hager and Kevin Padlo).

Tacoma starter Robert Dugger settled down nicely after the rocky first inning, rebounding to throw 82 pitches over 5.1 IP, scattering eight hits and only one walk, with eight strikeouts.

Witte (on base five times, 2 H, 3 BB) supplied a bit more cushion for the Rainiers in the eighth, muscling out a solo shot to lead off the inning, his 16th homer. A two-run homer by Liberato in the ninth, his eighth, made it an insurmountable 10 runs. Eight of nine Tacoma batters had a hit in a 14-hit attack, and eight of nine scored a run.

The Rainiers and Chihuahuas will return to action in the second game of the series on Friday, a 6:05 PT first pitch at Southwest University Park. RHP Ryan Weber will get the nod for Tacoma, against El Paso lefty Daniel Camarena.

Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto will have full coverage on All 2021 Rainiers games, home and away, can also be heard for free on the MiLB First Pitch app. HD video broadcasts of every home game can be viewed with an MiLB.TV subscription. (Use code: RAINIERS to save $10 on an annual subscription.

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