Just a week into the Pioneer League season, all the teams are strictly adhering to pitch counts to save valuable starting arms from overuse.
The first two games of 1991 at Derks, that pitch limit has been of direct benefit to the Salt Lake Trappers.They've been unable to solve Idaho Falls' starting pitchers. Saturday they got two hits and no runs in four innings off Mike Place (they eventually won 4-2), and Sunday afternoon, Braves' starter Jason Kempfer had a no-hit/no-run game going through his six innings. If he hadn't walked two - both later thrown out stealing at second - he'd have been working on a perfect game.
But Kempfer reached the 75-80-pitch limit, and Braves' Manager Steve Curry had to lift him with a 1-0 lead (Trapper starter Geno Mirabella was also sailing with a five-hitter through six when he, too, surpassed the limit and exited).
The Trappers gave reliever Craig Rapp one strikeout, then got their first two hits of the game in the seventh, Benny Castillo opening with a line-drive single to the left-field wall and Todd Edwards adding a single. Curry brought in another reliever who walked Keith Rader and wild-pitched Castillo home, and Trapper David Rolls ripped a two-run double.
In the space of four batters, the formerly hitless Traps were up 3-1. They made a run out of a two-out double and single in the eighth and hung on to beat Idaho Falls 4-3.
It was Salt Lake's second straight win after starting the season 1-4. Idaho Falls, once 4-0, fell to 4-3. They end the series tonight at 7, and Pocatello comes in for three at Derks starting Tuesday.
The Trappers scored all four of their runs in the eighth on Saturday and three in the seventh and one in the eighth on Sunday.
Was it just the changing of the guard on the mound?
"That's what it seems," said Curry. "We haven't been able to get anybody out in our bullpen all year. We scored enough runs to overcome it the first three games.
"We've just got to throw them (relievers) in there until somebody surfaces; I'm sure somebody will," said Curry.
"We would have gotten to him anyway," said Mirabella, expressing confidence in Trapper bats. "Their kid threw the ball real well," he added. "He was down in the strike zone."
Said Trapper Manager Nick Belmonte, "Needless to say the other guy did one heckuva job. He was behind in the count and still getting us out. It was a case of failure to hit."
"It never entered my mind," said Rolls, who came into the game hitting .438, third in the Pioneer League. He wasn't even aware Kempfer was throwing a no-hitter. "I knew we were going to burst out; I don't think anybody thought he was going to get a no-hitter," Rolls said.
Mirabella survived early trouble, getting out of the first with just one run despite three straight singles, and avoiding a score in the second though bases were loaded. He had runners in scoring position in the third and fifth but got out of it. In his first start of the season, at Idaho Falls, he lasted 21/3 innings and gave up four runs, three earned. Sunday, his concentration was better and the curve was working. "That's his out pitch; it makes the fastball and changeup all the more tough," said catcher Rolls.
Rolls was also feeling like he ought to make up for something when he stepped to the plate with two on in the seventh. "Last night, I was the guy that got out with bases loaded," he said. "Yeah, I thought about it. I like to get my hits when they count; it makes it mean so much more for the team."
The Trappers' winning run came with two away in the eighth when Rick Hertensteiner doubled to the right-field wall and came home with Castillo's second straight hit. That put Salt Lake up 4-2, and the Traps needed the insurance.
A one-run lead isn't safe, said Belmonte, who told Castillo that. He also told him, "Two-out RBI win championships."
Or at least a home game.