The El Paso Chihuahuas might have lost 5-4 to the Tacoma Rainiers in the season’s last game on Monday, but they were still the 2018 PCL Pacific Southern Division champions for the fourth consecutive year.
El Paso started strong in the first inning with a two-run double by left fielder Shane Peterson (.286 BA), Peterson ended the season with a 12-game hitting streak, El Paso 2-0.
The Dogs were gifted a run by Tacoma starter Casey Lawrence in the second inning when Forrestt Allday (.281 BA) smacked a two-out gentle roller near the mound with Brett Nicholas (.291 BA) on third base.
Allday sped toward first and Lawrence, undoubtedly pressured, slipped as he reached for the ball and couldn’t get a grip. Allday reached and Nicholas scored, El Paso 3-0.
Tacoma was determined to get those runs back in the third inning when catcher Cameron Rupp (a 6-foot-2-inch monster of a ball player with 260 pounds on him) smashed a fast ball off of El Paso starter Colin Rea (5.08 ERA) that ended up somewhere over the big green wall in center field – with two runners on base. The game was tied and the crowd of 7,523 grew quiet.
Fresh off of a 17 home-game winning streak, the Chihuahuas came back to smack Lawrence around in the third inning. Top prospect Francisco Mejia (.328 BA) doubled to the right field corner and moved to third on a Ty France groundout. Peterson, who had three RBIs in the game, smacked a single to right field and brought in Mejia, El Paso 4-3.
Unfortunately for El Paso, Lawrence (3.31 ERA) gave way to the Tacoma bullpen in the fourth inning and the Dogs’ fortune went with him. The Chihuahuas were hitless against the bullpen, striking out seven times and only getting on base once in the ninth with a walk.
Tacoma on the other hand, added runs in the fourth and seventh innings, Tacoma 5-4.
The winning pitcher was Trevor Frank (1-0) and the losing pitcher was hop-stepper Carter Capps (1-1). Daniel Schlereth earned his first save with a fly-ball out to left and two strikeouts.
Now the focus changes, as the Dogs will begin the best-of-five first-round playoff series at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday at Southwest University Park against the Fresno Grizzlies – the Houston Astros’ AAA affiliate. The series promises to be an exciting match-up for El Paso, who went 7-9 against Fresno in the regular season.
Box Score | Team Records: Tacoma (65-73), El Paso (82-57)
Next Game: Pacific Coast League Playoffs, First Round – Wednesday, 7:05 pm at Southwest University Park. Fresno RHP Brady Rodgers (0-0, -.–) vs. El Paso RHP Walker Lockett (0-0, -.–). The game will air on 600 ESPN El Paso and www.epchihuahuas.com.
Words by Larry Monarrez – El Paso Herald-Post
Gallery by Andres ‘Ace’ Acosta – Chief Photographer, El Paso Herald-Post
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