Manager Barry Moss sat alone in his dugout at Derks Field for about 15 minutes following the Trappers' untimely 6-5 12th-inning loss to Billings Thursday night.
In less than two hours, Moss and the Trappers would board their bus to Butte for what Moss called a "crucial, very pivotal" two-game series against the Copper Kings, who are now a game ahead in the Pioneer South."I was trying to think through everything," said Moss about his moments in the darkened dugout. "There's a lot going on."
What he thought was "that we're going to play solid defense, and the pitching will come through - and we need some luck."
Two losses at Butte would be disastrous. "If we come out of there three back, we're in deep trouble," Moss said. "No matter what, we can't give them two."
Thursday, the Trappers couldn't hit two Billings relief pitchers, and the 5-1 lead they'd had in the third inning vanished as the Mustangs chipped away. "They got one run at a time and got back in it," Moss said.
Billings scored once in the fourth, and only two putouts between third and home kept that from being worse. They added two in the fifth with back-to-back doubles and a single, and Scott Sellner's triple was followed by Mike Mulvaney's double for an eighth-inning 5-5 tie.
In the 12th, Danny Perozo looped safely to right. Sellner grounded toward Ray Karczewski.
He's the Trapper shortstop who broke his jaw in a collision with his third baseman on July 23 and was expected to be out for the season. Instead, the wires holding him together were cut Thursday, and Karczewski was right back in the lineup.
The Sellner ball hopped and hit Karczewski in the chest for an error that put runners on first and second. Mulvaney singled for the winning - if unearned - run against Lee Carballo.
But the Traps couldn't hit Steve Foster in the 12th any better than they'd done against Dave McAuliffe for six relief innings, and they went down stranding Kelly Zane, who'd walked.
"It was one of those do or die plays," said Karczewski of his error. "If you want to turn the double play, you've got to come on and get it. It you sit back, the ball's going to skip by you or you're lucky if you get one.
"It was an aggressive play, and I booted it," Karczewski said.
Moss disagreed. "The ball took a hop. I don't think it was that routine a play," Moss said. "He almost made a great play."
And the Traps almost didn't lose.
"You've got to give credit to McAuliffe and Foster," said Moss. "McAuliffe we haven't seen before, and he had real good stuff."
A base-running miscue in the 10th perhaps hurt. Mando Verdugo got hit by a pitch and was replaced at first by a pinch runner, who was promptly picked off. "That could have been the game," Moss said, though the next two batters struck out.
It was a rough game on bodies. Mustang left fielder Tony Terzarial, who tripled and scored to open the game, knocked himself out going into the wall for a two-run first-inning double by Tommy Boyce. A Jeff Allison sacrifice fly and Sloniger single drove in the Traps' third and fourth runs of the inning.
In the third, Tim McKercher tripled and you could hear the ball thump Ehmig in the ribs from the pressbox. Allison hit into a run-scoring double play for the Trappers' final run.
Mustang Mike Songini fisted a pitch in the eighth and is probably lost for the season with a resultant "exploded thumb," said Moss. Mustang shortstop Vincente Javier was injured on the game's last play when he caught Marty Peralta's popup and was submarined by the oncoming outfielder.
And the Traps nearly lost Karczewski again on a high, slow bounder in the 10th with Mulvaney going toward third. Sloniger cut across and Karczewski pulled up at the last second. Second baseman Zane made the play, throwing Mulvaney out at third, Gibbons tagging.
"It was deja vu," said Karczewski. "It was just one of those balls both of us go for, and one's got to take care of the other. If you don't, it happens that you break your jaw."
"I was worried," said Moss "- you know what I thought."