It was hot. Real hot. The first home day game. The crowd of 2,944 was good for a Sunday but only 30 percent as big as what showed up Saturday night and less than a third of what will be there tonight for the Famous Chicken. The opponent was second-to-last-place Idaho Falls, a team on a losing streak, not first-place Butte, which came in with a three-game win streak but left Derks Field Saturday night on a three-game losing streak.
The elements for disaster were in place."I was concerned," said Trapper Manager Barry Moss, "about coming off a big series with a sellout crowd and within 24 hours playing another game with a small crowd. We made a big deal about it before the game to not let them get anything on us early."
The Trappers, with Terence Glover pitching nicely en route to a 3-0 record, outdistanced the Braves 8-3 Sunday afternoon to run their record to 13-8 and remain a game behind Butte.
But it wasn't until Greg Ehmig popped his league-leading seventh homer in the seventh to make a 4-3 lead 6-3 that it began to look safe for Salt Lake.
"I didn't feel good about it. It was too close," said Moss. "They're not playing that well (the Braves committed six errors, three in the first three innings and three in the eighth), and we can't put them away. We're hitting well and doing fairly good defensively and not getting ahead," he said.
They weren't getting behind, either, because Glover and backup catcher Tim McKercher were having a pretty fair game of catch. Glover faced three batters each in the first three innings, although leadoff man Daryl Blanks did start with a single. He was erased when Randy Moore caught a fly ball by ex-BYU player Gary Schoonover and threw to Ehmig to double Blanks off.
Glover credited McKercher for helping him settle into a winning rhythm. "He bore with me quite a bit at the beginning. I felt strong, but my spots weren't good. It was the third time I've faced them, and I thought they'd know what I had, so he stressed spotting the ball," Glover said.
"It was hot!" Glover added. "I felt like the sun was only on me."
He said concentration was a problem at first, but other players told him to try not to
think about the 98-degree heat, and once there was a runner on base, he focused on that.
The Trappers opened with a run in the first, thanks to two Idaho Falls errors. Marty Peralta singled, the first of his three hits, and scored when an error in center let him go to second and a throwing error by the third baseman sent him home.
An error put Pat Waid on base in the third, and a passed ball and Peralta single gave Salt Lake a 2-0 lead.
Waid scored three runs for the second time in three games and has scored seven in the last three games.
Three straight hits in the fourth - a Schoonover single, Greg Harper double and two-run Steve Lopez single - tied the game briefly, but the Trappers, too, put across two in the inning.
McKercher walked and stole second - the second time in the game he'd done that - and scored on Waid's double. Waid scored on Kerry Shaw's shin-splitting single that forced injured Braves' starter Glenn Mitchell out of the game.
The third Idaho Falls run came in the fifth on an infield single by Keith LeClair, Pat Stivers' double and a Blanks' groundout.
Glover then produced two three-up, three-down innings to give Moss a new problem. All season, the bullpen had been overworked and underachieved. But three straight complete games from Willie Ambos, Fred Riscen and Bill Wenrick against Butte left the bullpen in need of exercise.
So in came Lee Carballo, who faced seven batters in the final two innings.
"Idaho Falls was aggressive with the bat," Carballo noted. "They were swinging at the first pitch. They came to play, and if we would have let down early, they could have had us."
The dreaded letdown never occurred.