6/14/2013-Sam DiMatteo slides safely into into home. (Photo by Emily Olguin)

By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer

TRINIDAD, Colo. — The two-team race for No. 1 in the Pecos League northern division tightened up a bit Thursday as No. 2 Las Vegas (16-13) edged No. 1 Trinidad (18-9) 11-9 in another game that came down to the wire.

“Our offense continued to fight, even though we got down early and continued to score runs,” said Train Robber manager Casey Dill. “Our bullpen pitched very well. Threw strikes. Struck guys out and we ended up on top tonight.”

“I thought both teams gave good effort tonight,” said Trigger manager J.R, Droddy. “We came out on the short end but these are two very good hitting ball clubs, and the pitching on both sides was better than the score indicates.”

Trinidad took an early lead. going up 1-0 in the first when Matt Hunt was hit, advanced on a balk and came in on a Sam DiMatteo double.

The Triggers made it 5-0 in the second on a Jason Venya double; error that put Andrew Azzopardi on first; Hunt single; DiMatteo hit by pitch; Frank Florio walk and a 3-RBI single by Mike Goldy.

But that was Trinidad’s biggest inning, as Hebisawa settled down as the game went on. Meanwhile, the Train Robbers started battling back.

They cut the lead to 5-3 in the third when Hebisawa reached on an error and scored on a Randy Wells double. Dillon Usiak doubled Wells in, then scored on an Andrew Lopez single.

Vegas cut the lead to 5-4 in the fourth when Ted LeMasters singled and came around on a single by A.J. Alexander and fielder’s choice, and scored on a wild pitch, then took a 6-5 lead in the fifth on a Lopez single and Adam Kam home run.

But Trinidad tied it in the bottom of the stanza on a solo homer by Azzopardi, then, after Lopez homered in the sixth to make it 7-6, the home team went up 8-7 in the bottom of the inning on a DIMatteo single and stolen base; Florio single and Robber error; and a Goldy double, with Hebisawa heading to the showers after walking RIchie Serritella.

Both Hebisawa and Alvarez the night before seemed to have some trouble against the Triggers, but Dill said both actually pitched very well.

“If you look at the earned run column, neither of them gave up very many earned runs. Our defense just hasn’t been there the past two days,” he said. “We just had some very costly errors that made it a lot harder on those guys, but they both actually threw pretty well, despite the large runs. It’s been on our defense for not making the routine play.”

James Coon took over on the mound for Trigger starter Chris Tuttle, setting the Train Robbers down 1-2-3, and Chuck Fontana came in for Vegas, giving up two walks but no hits or runs.

The visitors got enough runs for the victory in the eighth, scoring when Wells doubled, Usiak walked and Lopez singled, loading the bases and bringing Mike Mullen to the mound. Ricky Brown promptly tripled, scoring three, and Michael Kersghner shut Trinidad down in the bottom of the stanza.

A.J. Alexander scored the final Vegas run when he reached on an error and scored on another, then Trinidad got one back in the bottom of the stanza on a solo shot by Bryce Miller, but left two runners on base after two of the top four Triggers walked, but DiMatteo was caught stealing and Florio hit into a fielder’s choice.

“We kept clawing and fighting to the end,” Droddy said. “We had the winning run at the plate. Frank Florio hit a nice shot up the middle. They made a nice play to force out at second to cut it off. If he’d squared it up and sent it over the fence, we’d have had a walk off. It was that close.”

Despite the strong hitting, both coaches did see room for improvement.

“It was a good ball game,” Droddy said. “I thought pretty well played. We had more errors than we would like to have, but one is more than we would like to have.”

“We did take advantage of some errors,” Dill said. “Really, we left a lot of guys in scoring position tonight. We left the bases loaded three times and didn’t score any runs. So I guess we did take advantage of the errors, but we were more than capable of scoring a lot more runs tonight than we did. We just didn’t execute tonight as well as we normally do.”

There are still four games left in the series, with the location moving to Las VEgas for the next two games, which Dill said should be a plus for the Robbers.

“We have a certain home-field advantage. We know how to play when the wind’s blowing and how the infield and the outfield both pl;ay. Trinidad hasn’t been there yet. It’s always nice to play at home, in front of your own fans on your own baseball field. Any time you have a home game for anybody you’re going to have an advantage.”

And he knows there’s still time for the series to make a big change in the standings.

“I believe that we’re three or four games back of first place, so every game in this series is huge,” Dill said. “It matters. First place can change within the length of this series still, and both games to this point have been very, very close, well-played games by both teams. So anything can happen.”