The Goldeyes' doubleheader stretched late into Friday evening, but even as the sun fell behind Shaw Park the games played out like night and day.
In the first tilt against the visiting Lincoln Saltdogs, it seemed the Fish were falling back into the story of a fortnight ago, as they slid into a quiet loss on the back of a silent offence. But in the second inning of the night's second game, there were fireworks. Not the kind that light up the sky, but the kind that lit the scoreboard and were hammered from the plate: timely hits and eager runs. Scoring and confidence, and then later -- the win.
Maybe the first game shook them from a funk. Maybe youthful Winnipeg Jets prospect Jacob Trouba brought good luck when he threw the second match's ceremonial first pitch to fellow blue-liner Zach Bogosian. Maybe the crisp wind that gently buffeted the field sharpened the senses.
Either way, the game went like this: Lincoln scored in the first and the Fish didn't reply. Then Lincoln scored again in the second with infielder Mike Provencher's solo homer, and the Fish went wild.
First, Leonard Davis banged out a single. Then Luis Alen singled to follow him and Saltdogs starting pitcher Matt Bywater walked Goldeyes second baseman Nick Liles to load the bases. Shortstop Nate Samson struck out, and with two outs on the board and three runners on the bags the crowd held its collective breath.
Then Mike Coles, the former Goldeye who flew up to Winnipeg on a moment's notice Thursday to fill a gap in manager Rick Forney's order, stepped up to the plate. He'd already had a nice first game back in Goldeyes colours, delivering a double on his first at-bat in the night's opening match. That hit set him up for a run of his own, one of only two the Fish scored in the top half of the double-header.
Now, with so much on the line so early in the second game, Coles swatted a single, perfectly placed. The ball skipped by Lincoln third baseman Mike Provencher with enough space to allow Davis to run home, and every other Goldeyes runner to advance.
So the bases were loaded again, and again the Fish batter came through: third baseman Amos Ramon swung. There was a crack, and the ball flew into right field. Saltdogs outfielder Brian Embery dove to catch it, but it slipped past the edge of his outstretched glove and tumbled deep into the outfield. That hit scored three more runs and rocketed the Goldeyes up 4-2. The crowd, buzzing with the excitement of the sudden offensive surge, roared their approval.
The Goldeyes didn't hit much after that, but this time they didn't have to: the Saltdogs couldn't generate much offence off of Goldeyes pitching staff.
Starter Peter Gehle gave up six hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, reliever Brendan Lafferty delivered a key partial inning of relief, striking out Embery and the dangerous Provencher to close the sixth inning before Lincoln could draw blood.