Finally, a break.
After seven straight games without a decent bounce against Great Falls, the Salt Lake Trappers switched opponents Tuesday night and broke their franchise-record losing streak.The win didn't come easily.
It didn't come quickly.
But Tim McKercher crossed home plate in the bottom of the 11th inning Tuesday at Derks Field before 6,159, and that gave the Trappers a 4-3 overtime victory over the Billings Mustangs.
The Mustangs last year broke the 29-game win streak; Tuesday they ended the Trappers' seven-game losing streak.
McKercher led off the 11th with a hit to right - only the second Trapper hit since a Mando Verdugo home run in the fourth. When Jeff Allison's ground ball glanced off shortstop Scott Sellman's glove, McKercher boldly went to third.
"Originally, I broke hard to try to break up a double play," McKercher said, "but I saw the guy dive and saw it hit his glove." If the ball had gone straight through, he explained, he probably wouldn't have tried for third, but the bounce bought some time.
"I tried to look at Barry (Manager Moss) to see if he was waving me on," McKercher said, but he added he really didn't know what his coach signaled. "I just ran as fast as I could to third."
Moss said he was waving him on.
Chris Sloniger then drove a ball toward first that second baseman Tim Clark fielded on a hop. Clark came a long way for it, looked at McKercher heading home, cocked his arm to throw, then brought it down and put out Sloniger at first - a useless out since McKercher's run ended the game.
"For some reason, he looked at first base," said McKercher. "I was wondering why he would even think about going to first, but these were the breaks that were going the other way against the Dodgers. Maybe it's a good sign."
"I don't think he had a throw at home, by the way he fielded it," said Moss. "McKercher was well on his way. I think his instinct was to get the out."
Sloniger, who moved to third from shortstop in the 10th, made the play that got the Traps into their half of the 11th. He fielded a tough-hop Sellman grounder and made him out No. 3.
When Sloniger came up, "I was pumped. I love these situations. They're my opportunity to show I can clutch up in key situations." He said he just wanted to make contact. "If I put it in play, I knew we would score a run," he said.
"This means a lot," Sloniger added. "We knew we could play with the Dodgers, but just nothing would go right. This may be the key tonight. I know it's going to turn around for us."
Billings was no easy win. Both teams scored two runs in the first inning - the first and third men up each scored, Clark and Sellman for Billings and Pat Waid and Kerry Shaw for the Trappers. Verdugo's club-record 13th homer leading off the fourth put Salt Lake up one. Sellman tied it 3-3 in the sixth.
"I'm glad we played a real good, competitive game," said Moss. "The hitters have to hit a little more, but they were taking better swings and looked comfortable."
Actually, they went through 19 outs before hitting again after Verdugo's homer.
But, at the same time, pitching was doing its job on the Mustangs. Starter Bill Wenrick struck out six in his three innings, and the five Trapper pitchers - Wenrick, Terence Glover, Lee Carballo, Sean Johnson and Michael Gibbons, who picked up his first win of the season - combined to strike out 14. One man struck out five times, twice against Wenrick and once each against Carballo, Johnson and Gibbons.
"We got out hitting fly balls; they got out striking out. Outs are outs," Moss said.
Moss planned to use Wenrick and Glover for only 50 pitches each, and Carballo knew he wouldn't be in long. "These guys weren't pacing themselves," Moss said.
Johnson, who wound up throwing four innings when he rarely goes more than two, struck out four and gave up one hit, setting up Gibbons for the win. Gibbons felt guilty getting credit when Johnson did the longer effort, but he said, "I was wondering when I was going to get my first win. Won-lost is not really important to me (saves are), but the first win is nice."