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Stingers smiling over split series

Next up: Ballclub has homecoming in Canada

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After salvaging a series split with a 4-1 win over Central Division rival Iowa, the Salt Lake Stingers packed up and headed for a reunion.

On Monday, the Stingers visit Edmonton for the first time since the Anaheim Angels and Minnesota Twins swapped affiliations in the offseason.

Though Salt Lake manager Garry Templeton isn't thrilled about leaving 100 degree temperatures for Canada's cooler climate, he is looking forward to revisiting the place the team called home last summer.

"Edmonton was nice to us. It was a fun place to play," said Templeton. "We'll just go back and see some friends that we made while we were there. That's all I'm looking forward to. Well, I'm also looking forward to winning some ballgames."

Victories — anyhow, anyway, anywhere — are especially welcome in a pennant race that is developing as the regular season enters its final two months. At 57-38 overall, Salt Lake holds a six-game lead over Iowa (51-44) in the PCL's Central Division.

"I'll take a split against these guys because nothing's gained, nothing's lost. They came in six behind and they leave six behind," Templeton said after Sunday's win at Franklin Covey Field. "It just goes to show them that if they play us, it's going to be a battle."

The final game of the four-game series proved it.

Offense was in short supply as pitching stole the spotlight. Stingers starter Elvin Nina headlined the effort with Salt Lake's third complete game of the season. He picked up his third straight win after scattering seven hits and holding Iowa scoreless until the seventh inning.

"We always knew Elvin had some great stuff. The last few starts he's been going out there and doing what he's supposed to do," Templeton said of Nina, who has overcome early season woes and improved his record to 7-8. "We've all felt if not late this year or next year he'd be pitching in the big leagues. He's starting to show what he can do out there on the mound."

Namely, continued Templeton, Nina has been keeping the ball down in the zone. The right-hander has also been getting a little more pop on the ball and maintaining speed in the 90s.

"That's what I'm used to seeing Elvin do," said Templeton, who helped Nina identify a problem with his pitching mechanics several weeks ago. "He struggled early, and now he's starting to show everyone what he can do."

Offensively, the Stingers backed Nina with runs in the third, fifth, sixth and eighth innings. Iowa's lone score cam on a fielder's choice in the seventh.

Salt Lake RHP Brian Cooper (8-5, 4.83 ERA) and Edmonton RHP Bryan Wolff (2-3, 4.96 ERA) are Monday's scheduled starters.

BEE LINES: Sunday's attendance was 5,347 . . . Approximately 1,000 tickets are available for the July 24 fireworks game . . . Cubs catcher Todd Hundley, who is with Iowa on a major-league rehab assignment, has struck out 12 times in 20 at-bats during his stint in the minors . . . Salt Lake's next homestand features visits by Edmonton (July 24-27) and Calgary (July 28-31).


E-MAIL: dirk@desnews.com

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