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Stingers blank Rainiers in series opener

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The Salt Lake Stingers boltered their first-place lead over the Tacoma Rainiers by shutting them out 10-0 Saturday behind a strong outing from starting pitcher Kevin Gregg.

Salt Lake is now 2 1/2 games ahead of Tacoma in the Pacific Conference's Northern Division.

"Anytime you go into a series like this you want to establish a precedent," Gregg said. "We're going to show them who's in charge.

It was the Stingers' second shutout of the season.

Salt Lake also extended its record for consecutive home victories to 11.

Gregg pitched seven shutout innings after a rough start Monday when the Stingers lost 19-2 to Fresno. Gregg gave up six hits, struck out out three and did not allow any walks.

"Any time you have a start like Monday, you want to bounce back," he said.

Stingers manager Dino Ebel praised the efforts of Gregg and the defense that played behind him.

"What an outstanding job,"he said. "Any time you pitch like that and play defense you'll win games.

Casey Kotchman lead the Salt Lake offense with four hits and two runs, but said he doesn't want to make too much of it.

"I'm just trying to compete every time I step in the box," Kotchman said. "I'm just trying to see the ball and hit it.

Ebel said Kotchman is developing into a formidable player.

"This guy's going to hit," he explained. "It's only a matter of time. And the with the plays he makes defensively, he's an all-around player.

The Stinger defense did not commit an error and made many impressive plays, including a diving stop and put out by second baseman David Matranga and a diving catch for a foul ball over the rain-tarp by Kotchman.

"My dad always said that you're bat can't and won't be there every night but your glove can and should be," he said. Kotchman's father, Tom, manages the Orem Owlz.

"We got a few bounces,"Ebel said. "We were diving and falling over the tarp. These guys are letting the pitchers know that they're going to play for them."

Holding a 5-0 lead, Salt Lake scored five runs in the fifth inning to put the Rainiers away for good. Brian Gordon started the rally with a sacrifice fly to center field which allowed Casey Kotchman to score.

Ryan Budde singled to score Nick Gorneault and then scored with Jeff Mathis on a single by Zach Sorensen. Rainier pitcher Jared Thomas balked in another run after that.

E-mail: bhinton@desnews.com