Butte Copper Kings' Manager Bump Wills was concerned about his starting pitcher for Tuesday night, Dan Smith.
For Smith, you see, the holiday game in Derks Field was his parting shot at rookie-league ball.The Texas Rangers' No. 1 draft choice, a left-hander out of Creighton University, knew before the game started that today he'd be on his way to Double-A ball in Tulsa, come rain, shine, wind or fireworks or all of the above.
Wills wondered if Smith could keep his head in the game, especially after a 45-minute rain delay before the first pitch was ever thrown.
Smith combined with Matt Whiteside to throw a four-hitter past the Salt Lake Trappers, beating them 5-3.
Smith gave up all four hits and three runs through his six innings, but he also kept at bay a team that had just won 13 of its last 16 including two of three in Butte over the weekend.
"I wanted to go out with a good outing," said Smith.
Smith said the delay hurt and he didn't feel his best until the fourth inning; things improved for him when he began pitching from a stretch rather than a windup because of the wind. "When I went to my windup, I was getting blown around," he said.
The Trappers' leadoff batter of the game, Jim Doyle, walked and scored on Kevin McMullan's double, but Smith allowed Salt Lake only one baserunner at a time after that until the seventh.
"Smith kept us from mounting any threats," said Trapper Manager Nick Belmonte. "We got a run the first inning, and it looked like we were off and running, and he shut us down."
In the seventh, Smith walked Joe Burnett and watched Rich Bielski crash a long RBI triple off the wall.
Wills brought in Whiteside, who walked John Urcioli but got out of the inning with a run-scoring double play and popup and threw three innings of hitless ball.
"He did a real good job," Smith said of Whiteside. "He throws strikes, and he goes after everybody, so hopefully he'll be joining me (in Tulsa)."
Butte had 11 hits against two Salt Lake pitchers, and the Kings made use of four errors by Trapper third baseman Tom Duffin, who had eight errors through 32 previous games.
Butte scored two in the second and two in the third for a 4-1 lead and scored its fifth in the seventh for a 5-1 lead before the Traps got two back.
In the second, Brian Mouton led with a double that was followed by a wild pitch and singles from Todd Guggiana and Rusty Greer. Pioneer League hitting leader David Hulse singled in Guggiana. The runs in the third started with Brian Mercado doubling and scoring after a Duffin error put Mouton on and Guggiana singled. Mouton scored on a fielder's choice. In the seventh, Shannon Penn reached second on a Duffin throwing error, was bunt-singled to third and scored on a bunt.
"Duffin's all right; he's played solid defense all year," said Belmonte, who chalked up the loss to playing an equal. "You've got two good ballclubs; it's going to happen," he said.
The two teams meet in Derks again tonight.