A couple of long balls — one by a veteran and the other by a newcomer — powered the Salt Lake Bees to a 9-8 victory over the Colorado Springs Sky Sox on Saturday night at Franklin Covey Field.
The Bees earned the win despite a near complete collapse in the ninth inning. The Sky Sox scored four runs before the Bees even recorded an out and plated five runs total in the top of the ninth off Bees reliever Alex Serrano to pull to within one. But Salt Lake pitcher Jason Bulger was able to come in and strike out Clint Barmes for the final out to earn the save.
The Bees managed to hang on to remain in first place in their Pacific Coast League division. A loss would have put the Sky Sox atop the PCL Pacific Northern Division standings with one game remaining before the All-Star break.
"It was a good ball game," said Bees manager Brian Harper. "Pretty much everything was positive — until the ninth."
Nick Gorneault, who has played in 323 games in a Salt Lake uniform and is among the franchise's all-time leaders in many offensive categories, hit a two-run homer in the second inning to give the Bees their first lead. It was Gorneault's 53rd home run for Salt Lake.
Catcher Bobby Wilson, meanwhile, hit the first triple-A home run of his career in the sixth inning for the Bees — a three-run shot. Wilson was just promoted to the Bees from double-A Arkansas on Monday.
"We swung the bats well," said Harper.
Bees first baseman Mike Eylward went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs, as Salt Lake has now won three of the first four games in the five-games series.
"If we win tomorrow that will be a nice series," said Harper.
Bees starter Jonathan Rouwenhorst pitched six solid innings, giving up three runs on six hits with four strikeouts to earn his ninth win of the season.
"You can't say enough about what Jonathan has done," said Harper. "Last year was the first time he'd ever started in the pros, but now here he is right in the rotation and giving us quality starts ... He just goes out there and battles."
The win ensured that the Bees will enter the All-Star break leading their division. Salt Lake (50-40) now leads second-place Colorado Springs (47-40) by 1 1/2 games with just today's 2 p.m. game remaining before the team will get three days off.
The series will conclude this afternoon when Bees lefty Joe Saunders (4-5, 4.79 ERA) is scheduled to pitch against Ubaldo Jimenez (6-5, 6.45 ERA).
BEE LINES: Bees outfielder Greg Porter was named the Angels organization player of the month for June. He hit .368 overall with 12 doubles, six homers and 28 RBIs in 25 games at double-A Arkansas and six games with the Bees after being promoted ... Relief pitcher Rich Thompson, who has appeared with the Bees in just game one since being promoted from Arkansas, has left the Bees to participate in the All-Stars Futures Game that pits some of the top prospects in the minor leagues in a USA vs. the World format. Thompson, a native of Australia, will play for the World team ... Casey Smith hit a double giving him 300 career hits for Salt Lake ... Attendance at Saturday's game was 7,111.