As the first batter came to the plate in the ninth Thursday at Derks Field with the Trappers up 9-3, Van Schley said, "Do you think we have a chance?"
The Trappers' player personnel wizard was not kidding.This team has blown leads that big before in one inning.
But Thursday there would be no such gaffes, even if Salt Lake was playing the Pioneer League's No. 1 team, Butte, 13-4 and on a six-game win streak.
Willie Ambos pitched a complete game to say "no" to Butte's attempt at No. 7 in a row. Left fielder Tommy Boyce threw out two runners at critical times to say "no" to the Copper Kings. Marty Peralta ripped a single, a double and a triple and drove in four runs to deny Butte.
The Traps did have a chance - and they won it by that same 9-3 score.
"We really needed a `W' to start the homestand against a first-place club," said Ambos, who became only the third Trapper pitcher to get a complete game, although he came within one out of doing so on June 25 against Idaho Falls.
He lasted only 62/3 innings in his next appearance, against Pocatello, and that gave Ambos something to shoot for. "I was really down on myself when I coasted into the sixth with a two-hit shutout," he recalled about his last game, "and I wanted to get past the seventh to prove something to myself. Once past the seventh, I was fairly confident of getting a complete game."
Ambos, who gave up all three runs in the sixth - all unearned - and scattered 11 hits, was helped into the seventh by Boyce's throw that got Dominic Pierce going to second on a run-producing hit for the third out of the sixth.
And he was helped out of the seventh by another Boyce throw for the third out, this time to home to put out Joe Wardlow, who at the time represented the tying run. The Trappers were up 4-3.
"That right there was the ballgame," Ambos said. "If they tie it up, who knows what will happen?"
Ambos said the play precipitated the five-run Trapper seventh as well. "A defensive play like that pumps you up. If it doesn't, you've got to check your pulse," Ambos said.
Peralta's pulse was doing nicely. He'd already driven in two runs with a first-inning double and scored on a Mando Verdugo ground ball.
In the seventh, DH Peralta came up with Ray Karczewski and Kerry Shaw on base and turned a bad moment in Trap baserunning into a big-inning rally.
On a Shaw fly ball to right field, Karczewski waited at second to see if the ball would be caught. He got to third and held. Pat Waid was on the fly after Shaw's ball dropped for a hit; he looked up to see Karczewski on the base 10 feet in front of him. Waid was out.
Both runners made errors, said Manager Barry Moss, Karczewski going all the way back to second to tag up and Waid not looking ahead. "We got away with it because the runs scored, but it's going to be reviewed," Moss said. "It's our first baserunning mistake this year. I'm not that upset."
Greg Ehmig followed Peralta with a run-scoring single and scored on a balk. Mando Verdugo singled, took third on two balks and scored on a Boyce hit.
Peralta, who also had a hit in the eighth, said an adjustment made Thursday in his batting stance by coach Dan Swam helped him hit the hardest he has since joining the club 11 games ago. "He told me to open up to get a better look at the ball and to force me to stay in on an outside pitch," Peralta said.
"It's a good sign to see him drive it to right-center," said Moss about Peralta's triple. "It means he's staying with the pitch all the way."
While Moss planned discussions for today regarding baserunning and the four balks Trapper pitchers have committed in the last two games, he was happy Trapper hitters roughed up two Butte pitching threats.
Starter Greg Kuzma gave the Traps trouble twice, but he was gone in the third inning. In the seventh, the Trappers chased ace reliever Jim Hivizda on three straight singles.
The Trappers and Copper Kings resume tonight and finish the series Saturday. Idaho Falls is in town for games Sunday afternoon and Monday night.
TRAPPER NOTES - The Trappers Thursday released right-handed pitcher Dean Tanner (0-0, 9.49 ERA) . . . Earlier this week, they traded pitchers, Ed Ramirez to Boise for Bill Weinrich, who played for the '87 Streakers.