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Ex-Bingham star nearly leads Stars over Buzz

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Buzz 12, Stars 11

For most of Wednesday's Buzz game at Franklin Covey Field, the designated hitter for the visiting Las Vegas Stars was a fan favorite. Though he was on the enemy's team, he was greeted with a warm welcome and was even cheered on by the Salt Lake crowd each time he stepped to the plate.

Until his last at-bat, that is.

Nate Tebbs, the former standout athlete from Bingham High, was simply the Las Vegas player who stood in the way of a Buzz victory at that point. And it didn't turn out to be a great ending for him and his entourage who were hoping for some last-inning heroics from the former Jazz ballboy.

With two outs in the top of the ninth and his team trailing by one, Tebbs ended his homecoming game by whiffing on a third strike with the count full. His misfortune was a much-welcomed break for the Buzz, who, as a result, snapped their three-game losing streak by taking the 12-11 seesaw battle from the Stars in the wild PCL contest.

"It was a good game, we just came up a little short," said Tebbs after chatting with friends for a few minutes following the opener of the four-game series. "I would've liked to have had a walk instead of swinging at that ball in the dirt, though."

Overall, however, Tebbs was a big hit — and hitter — in his first game in Salt Lake as a professional ballplayer. Batting from the leadoff spot, the 1991 Bingham alum went 3-for-6 with a solo homer, three RBIs, and he scored twice in helping the Stars to an early 6-1 lead.

Tebbs admitted he was stoked to suit up in Utah for the first time since 1993, when his College of Southern Idaho club made a trip here. Thanks to a break in the Stars' schedule, he was able to arrive a day early with his wife, Debbie, and 19-month-old son, A.J. They are all staying with his parents at their Riverton home, enjoying the rare mid-season time together.

The whole Tebbs clan was at the yard Wednesday. Tebbs said the Buzz and his teammates were helpful in getting about 50 tickets so some of his friends and family could see him in action. He wasn't on the Stars roster the last time they came here as he was still playing for Double-A Mobile after being traded to the Padres organization from the Boston Red Sox.

"It's exciting to play here. I knew I'd have a lot of family and friends, so it was fun to play in front of people who wanted me to do well," he said. After going 0-for-13 in his last series and carrying a .231 batting average, Tebbs got the Stars off to a good start by singling in the first at-bat of the game. He eventually scored and then smacked his home run and singled again in his next ups.

He wasn't the only player to pad his stats at the plate on this night, though, as the teams combined for 30 hits.

Three Buzzmen — John Barnes, Doug Mientkiewicz and Casey Blake — put together three-hit nights.

Salt Lake took its first lead, 8-6, in the fifth inning as it scored five runs in the frame in part because of two errors on one play. The squads played hot potato with the lead after that until the Buzz scored the final two runs in the bottom of the eighth after Barnes doubled and Mientkiewicz and Blake each recorded RBI singles.

Brent Stentz, the relief pitcher who squandered a ninth-inning lead in the Buzz's 24th of July loss, then redeemed himself by getting three straight batters out, including Tebbs, to end the game.

E-MAIL: jody@desnews.com