AFTER a week of fireworks on the field and in the sky -- a few big wins, Canada Day, the Fourth of July -- the Goldeyes' spark sputtered on Monday night.
Though reliever Allen Caldwell fought to keep the game within striking distance during the second half, a quartet of errors and a string of walks (three in a row in the fifth inning alone) kept the Fish flopping behind the visiting Gary-SouthShore RailCats, who had already taken the first two games of the four-tilt series.
Although the Goldeyes' 10 hits were only one fewer than the RailCats mustered, they couldn't make 'em count the same, and after eight tight innings the Fish finally succumbed to pressure with some sloppy defensive play in the top of the ninth that put the game away.
Before that, they had some chances to tie: the Goldeyes got a freebie in the fifth, when a bases-loaded balk against RailCats pitcher Morgan Coombs let Fish catcher Luis Alen jog past home. That narrowed the gap to 4-2, and designated hitter Ray Sadler might then have tied the game when he moseyed up to the plate with two runners on base, but with three balls, two strikes and two outs on the board he whiffed on Coombs' final pitch.
In the seventh, another golden opportunity, after Alen banged out a single deep into left field and speedster Tyler Graham -- freshly returned from a two-week stint in the Mexican League -- followed him on-base, but with two outs on the board RailCats third baseman Brian Kolb simply leaned out to catch a fly from left-fielder Mike Coles just outside the foul line to snuff out the threat.
RailCats designated hitter Cristian Guerrero banged out two doubles in five tries at the plate, and got on-base thanks to a Goldeyes fielding error in the fifth. He scored all three times he got on base, including the winning third strike in the third.
Gary first baseman Christian Vitters ripped out a few key hits for his squad, ending with two hits, one of them a two-RBI single in the third that scored the winning run, and one run of his own in three at-bats.
The Goldeyes were turned out in special sky-blue jerseys and ballcaps, which will be auctioned off over the course of the season to raise money for CancerCare Manitoba and the Goldeyes' own Field of Dreams Foundation. On Monday, Josh Mazzola's jersey went for $300 and Fehlandt Lentini's game-worn shirt for $360.
ON THE HOOK
Fans who need their Fish fix will want to make sure to be at Shaw Park on Tuesday, when the team wraps up their homestand against the RailCats at 7 p.m. Then the squad is hitting the road for a 10-game, 13-day swing through Quebec for a little interleague action.