The '88 Trappers had one Great Fault no good solution to any team named "Falls."
Thursday's homestand-opening 4-3 loss to Idaho Falls in Derks Field put an end to Salt Lake's bid for a fourth straight Pioneer League championship.The Trappers can't win the league championship again because they couldn't win the Southern Division. Butte, which won Thursday in Pocatello, took the division with four games remaining. The Copper Kings are 42-24; the Traps are 37-29 can be no better than 41-29.
"It's over," sighed Manager Barry Moss, whose club is first in Trapper history to not win the Pioneer League.
The Trappers, 0-7 against league-leading Great Falls, are 5-8 vs. Idaho Falls with tonight's game left. The Braves have won 26 games all season - nearly a third of them over the Traps.
"We seem to do good against the tough teams," said Braves' pitcher Jim Kortright, the Layton native who picked up the victory in relief. Kortright, 6-3, is the Braves' winningest pitcher.
"It seems there's a team that will snake-bite you every year, and they've gotten us," said Moss. I don't know how to beat them.
"No sour grapes," he said, "but I think past Trapper clubs may have made this a more competitive league, in that there are more experienced players being sent in now, and the other teams are better. This year, it's far more competitive."
When the '88 Trappers were healthy, Moss said they were comparable to Great Falls and past Trapper clubs, "but we haven't had everybody in the lineup since July 26. We ran into a couple of crucial injuries in the stretch drive."
Braves' Manager Jim Procopio also said last year's Trappers had a lot to do with his team's winning against this year's Trappers. "Last year, Salt Lake beat everybody's posteriors very well," Procopio said. "Any time you have a dominant program like they've had, everyone shoots for them."
Procopio also recalled some indulgent thrashings by the '87 Traps. He said Moss, a Trapper coach last year, had nothing to do with it, "but last year, they didn't play with a whole lot of class and sort of buried us. What goes around comes around."
The first inning was an omen. Myron "Pop" Gardner had to strike out four Braves to get three outs. A wild pitch put Gary Schoonover, formerly of BYU, on first base after he'd struck out. Gardner, in fact, struck out nine of the first 13 he faced and totaled 12 Ks for 62/3 innings, but it was an uphill battle.
"He's been the hard-luck pitcher for us all year," said Moss. "If we could only knock a double to get a run in, it would be a different situation.
"We've been in a collective hitting slump the last three or four games," Moss said. "We can't bunch the hits."
Idaho Falls didn't bunch hits, either, until the seventh inning. In the third, Don Campbell scored when a single and stolen base/throwing error put him on third for Schoonover's sacrifice fly. In the fifth, a single, sacrifice hit, wild pitch and sacrifice fly scored the second Brave run.
The Traps tied it 2-2 in the fifth, but they also lost on two of three gambles. Pat Waid singled and went to second on a groundout, and Tommy Boyce reached on an error that scored Waid on a daring attempt for home. Two wild pitches and a walk later, Boyce and Mando Verdugo were on second and third with Tim McKercher, the hottest of all Trapper hitters, up.
McKercher, 15 for 25 on the road, 2 for 5 Thursday, was being intentionally walked when a pitch came too near the strike zone. He hit it, straight to Kortright, and became Out No. 2.
Jeff Allison singled to short left, and Boyce scored. Moss sent Verdugo home from second, and he was hunted down, halting the Traps' only real rally.
"I shouldn't have sent Verdugo," said Moss, "but I didn't think he could come up with the ball that cleanly."
"That was a big play," said Procopio, "but I sent a guy and got him thrown out, too."
That time, however, Idaho Falls had taken a 4-2 lead on a Ramces Guerrero solo homer and a Darrell Blanks bloop double. A Schoonover single scored Blanks, and Procopio sent Campbell, who was out at home on a Boyce throw.
The Traps finished with a Kelly Zane run in the ninth and Rick Hurni and McKercher on first and third. Allison lined to short for the last out.
"I love it," said Kortright of his win in front of about 20 friends and family members. He'd gotten a save last time in town.
"When he comes out in this place, he gets psyched even more than he usually is," said Procopio of Kortright, "and he's usually on the ceiling anyway. The tenacity and personality he has is just ideal (for a reliever)."
TRAPPER NOTES _ Kerry Shaw (.353 average) remains out with a torn gastrocnemius (calf) muscle . . . Season attendance is 162,811; the Traps need 7,324 in the four remaining home games to break their pro baseball/short-season record of 170,134 set last year . . . Gardner's 12 strikeouts gave him the team lead with 66 to Terence Glover's 61 . . . McKercher, hitting .391, would lead the league if he had enough at-bats, but he's 66 shy. Zane (.385) is third.