The four-game series between Butte and Salt Lake ended Thursday night at an impasse. Butte scored four first-inning runs to propel the Copper Kings to a 6-5 victory. That evened this week's Derks Field series at two games apiece and left them both where they were when they started - with the Trappers two games ahead of Butte in the Southern Division standings.
However, it didn't leave things exactly even.While both camps were initially professing to be content with the split, it loomed much more significant for Butte. The Copper Kings now move on for a four-game series at home against Medicine Hat, a team that could use some sort of medicine, indeed. The Blue Jays have yet to break into double figures in the win column.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake boarded a bus Thursday night for Billings, where the Trappers will take on a tougher opponent. They will then move on to meet Northern Division leader Great Falls for three games.
Butte also has three games at Medicine Hat later in the month, and two pivotal games at home against Salt Lake.
The Trappers didn't relinquish the split without a fight. When they finally coughed up the game, they had scored one run in the ninth and had a man on first and home run man Greg Ehmig at the plate. But Helena reliever Jim Hivizda struck out Ehmig on a one-and-two pitch.
Afterwards, Butte manager Bump Wills enjoyed the moment. He chatted casually with friends in the stands, signed autographs, and assessed the outcome of the series. "Anytime you can split against this club in this park, you've done a job," he said. Earlier this season Butte lost three straight to the Trappers at Derks.
The Copper Kings didn't waste time getting down to business, jumping on Salt Lake starter Terance Glover for four runs in the first inning. First baseman Rob Maurer, who missed six games due to bronchitis prior to Wednesday's game, cracked a home run over the left field fence with two men on to start the scoring. That was followed by a Mike Spear homer to center field.
"My team showed me something tonight that was lacking in the past," said Wills. "We took it to 'em . . ."
The matter wasn't decided until later, though. The Trappers roughed up Butte starter Robb Nen for four runs in the third inning. Kevin Ohama, Greg Ehmig and Marty Peralta each singled in a run and Tommy Boyce sacrificed in another as Salt Lake tied the score.
Maurer, who went 2-for-2 with four RBI, sacrificed Thayer Swain home in the fifth and singled to lead off the eighth. He came home with the Kings' final run on Spear's double.