It's one thing to have a potent offense, but when you add a veteran pitcher on the top of his game, expect the best. Larry H. Miller Toyota did just that as Vaughn Alvey threw a two-hitter and left the rest up to the bats in an 11-1 opening round Pioneer Days Tournament win over the Ramblers from Auckland, New Zealand.
The 45-year-old Alvey took the mound knowing full well that the Miller hitters could erase any mistake made in the field."These guys make it a lot easier on a pitcher when you see the kind of offense they can generate," Alvey said. "They scored a lot of runs, which helped take the pressure off my mistake."
The mistake referred to was a 3-1 fastball right down the middle, which Rambler third baseman Steve Oliver deposited in the parking lot just beyond center field.
Then Miller catcher Todd Wartman took over the show. Wartman's performance wasn't expected, because this was his first game back since suffering a thumb injury seven weeks ago.
"I asked him about the hand before the game and he said it felt fine, so we decided to try it out," Cleverly said later.
It turned out to be the right time for a test drive as Wartman delivered a 3-for-3 night with 3 RBI and a home run.
After a scoreless first inning Wartman slammed his solo home run to lead off the second, then shortstop Gordon Eakin tripled and scored to give Miller an early 2-0 lead. Oliver's homer in the bottom of the second drew the Ramblers to within one, but then the Miller bats and some costly errors dictated the rest of the night.
In the top of the third, Brett Alvey (Vaughn's son) reached on a fielding error with two out. Instead of going into the bottom of the inning down one, the Ramblers found themselves down 5-1 after two singles and a Wartman double. Alvey settled in and coasted home as Miller Toyota scored six more runs with the help of three more Rambler miscues, before the game was called on the eight-run rule after five innings.
Miller Toyota now waits until 2:30 p.m. today before its next game against the Amigos from Mexico. Then in the nightcap, Miller faces off against the Mustangs from Prescott, Ariz., at 9 p.m..
The Mustang game appears to be the first real test for Miller Toyota.
"We've played them a couple of times and would probably beat them 8 out of 10 times, but we will really need that game to nail down the top spot going into the championship round on Sunday," Cleverly said. "That's when we will bring out Pete (ace pitcher Pete Meredith)."
Salt Lake's other local team in action late Friday, Page Brake, opened up a 5-0 lead on the Black Sox of New Mexico, then coasted to a 5-2 win. Neal Chadwick allowed only four hits and helped his own cause with a 2-RBI single in the first for the victors.
In other games, the Pride from Decatur, Ill., downed Joe's Auto from Willcox, Ariz., 5-0. The Mustangs from Prescott, Ariz., downed the Amigos of Nogales, Mexico, 4-3. National Health Care downed the Springers of Boulder, Colo., 5-0. And the Sioux City Soos drubbed the Metros of Boise, Idaho 8-1.
The tournament continues today with games beginning at 10 a.m. and running through 9 p.m. All of which will be round robin play to lead into the bracketing for Sunday's single elimination tournament.