Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Texas six-pack goes down good
Goldeyes start year on upswing
LAREDO, Texas -- The travel has been arduous and the heat oppressive, but the Winnipeg Goldeyes won five of their first seven games in their season-opening nine-game road trip around Texas.
Playing in El Paso on Thursday after an eight-hour bus ride from Laredo, the Goldeyes defeated the Diablos 9-7 in 10 innings in the first of the three-game set, which will conclude the nine-game road trip. The Goldeyes will play El Paso again tonight (7:05 p.m., TSN Radio 1290) and Saturday before the 27-hour bus ride back to Winnipeg.
The Goldeyes swept the season-opening three-game series in Amarillo then took one of three from the Lemurs in Laredo. Manager Rick Forney said those early-season battles are good for the group's development, as team faced a variety of situations.
"We've had to play from behind, we've had to situational hit, we've had to run the bases well, we've had to pitch well," he said. "We did a lot. We had to play defence and we did what we had to. We're still a bit of a work in progress and we have a lot of work."
Observations so far: Veteran Jon Weber is a fighter who never stops leading by example; Chris Roberson is a celebrity in Texas; this team can swing itself out of a hitting slump; there's some scrappers in the bullpen; the red uniforms win; Amos Ramon's family has plenty of cameras if you need one.
Roberson, a former Major Leaguer with the Reds and Orioles, signed scores of autographs in Amarillo, as fans can stroll right up to the clubhouse door, with no security present.
Ramon, the third baseman who lives in Winnipeg but was raised in Corpus Christi, Texas, had an entourage of family following him at all three Texas stops. There was videotaping of his at-bats and group photos after games as his family shared the experience of seeing Ramon play pro baseball in his home state.
Dexter Carter, infielder/pitcher Kaohi Downing, who has two wins, and Craig James, who has one win, have shown themselves to be reliable relievers who can pitch the team out of jams.
On a fashion note, the Goldeyes wore their red uniforms in the first four wins.
Winnipeg got into trouble defensively a few times but also dug themselves out of jams with solid defensive work. The Goldeyes executed seven double plays in their four wins over Amarillo and Laredo.
Jon Weber has been playing banged up but you'd never know it, as he and shortstop Price Kendall were both on six-game hitting streaks heading into Thursday's action.
Right-fielder Josh Mazzola, who struck out five times Sunday in Amarillo, got a rest for Monday, went 0-3 on Tuesday (but didn't strike out) and then walloped a two-run homer Wednesday in Laredo.
Matt Cusick, the team's second baseman who has also served as the designated hitter, hammered the first grand slam of the season in Friday's season-opening 14-9 win in Amarillo.
He said avoiding being swept in Laredo with Wednesday's 11-3 win was a good way to end the series against the Lemurs.
"Win a couple games in El Paso and then get back home and really get to work," Cusick said.
The Goldeyes host the Amarillo Sox for the three-game home-opening series May 29-31 at Shaw Park. Over 7,000 tickets have been sold.
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2012 C4
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