Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cool hurler on cold night

Walker's poise helps Goldeyes win in chilly home opener

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It was so chilly at Shaw Park Tuesday night, Ace Walker surely had ice water in his veins.

With the mercury dipping as low as 8 C during the game, the Winnipeg starter picked up his first win of the season as the Goldeyes beat the Amarillo Sox 4-3 in American Association baseball action before 7,422 fans.

Walker methodically narrowed his chase of the franchise's all-time record for strikeouts, fanning six and throwing seven scoreless innings. He is now just three strikeouts away from the record of 313 held by current Goldeyes manager Rick Forney.

Winnipeg (7-3) scored runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings but barely held on for the win when the Sox (6-5) scored three in the top of the ninth. Closer Nick Carr surrendered four hits and allowed two runs with one strikeout.

The Fish got on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning on a two-RBI single by shortstop Price Kendall. The home side led 3-0 after six on right-fielder Ridge Carpenter's RBI on a fielder's choice. In the seventh, an error by the Sox's third baseman scored Kendall for a 4-0 Winnipeg edge.

Carpenter, who hails from Honolulu, Hawaii, said he couldn't recall being as cold as he was on Tuesday. The sun was out and it was 11 C to start the game at 7:15 p.m., but the temperature would fall.

"This is pretty cold, I've never worn these things (nylon runner's leggings), I didn't even have the right things to wear, I had to borrow these (from pitcher Craig James), I don't need any of these things in Hawaii," Carpenter said with a laugh. "I don't even like wearing long sleeves but I sure am today."

Carpenter, a 22-year-old rookie, joined the Goldeyes last season on the road on June 28 so Tuesday night was his first home opener with the Goldeyes.

There were a few laughs prior to the game, through clenched teeth, by general manager Andrew Collier and manager Rick Forney, that it was actually colder last year. The 2011 home opener was played on May 13 when it was 6 C.

"It's always special. From the last game of the previous year to the first home game of the next year, there's a lot of dedicated people that work really hard to make sure all 50 games are an event and the home opener is special because it kicks it all off," said Collier, noting 7,200 tickets were sold prior to the game so that any weather would be good weather.

"That's why we made a conscious effort of doing a good job selling as many tickets as we could before game day because you never know what you're going to get. You don't want to have to rely on walk-up."

He said in previous years when there's been 5,500 or 6,000 sold, they've hoped for a good walk-up.

"Then you have a day like last year, and I think we sold eight tickets, our walk-up all day, because it was so cold."

Collier said 6-7,000 are expected for today's game at 7 p.m. as it is School Patrol Night for youngsters while about 6,000 students are expected on Thursday for the 11 a.m. start.

In Tuesday's game, the Sox mounted an impressive ninth-inning comeback as centre-fielder Harrison Kain scored on a wild pitch, and second baseman Jake Opitz hit an RBI double and then scored on a single by catcher Alberto Espinoza.

Goldeyes highlights included Dan Barbero went 2-4 with a double and a run scored in his first Goldeyes start while Kendall had a hit, scored a run and had two RBI.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPAshleyPrest

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 30, 2012 D2

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