Folks at Franklin Covey Field were ready for their fireworks show and Matt Brown made sure they didn't have to wait longer than their scheduled nine-inning baseball game to see them.
Brown hit a game-winning, bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Salt Lake Bees a 4-3 victory over the New Orleans Zephyrs on Saturday night in front of 11,114 fans. The win gives the Bees a 63-44 record and increases their lead to seven games over second-place Portland in the PCL's Pacific North Division.
"It's about time," said Brown. "I think I've had, like, 10 of those opportunities (to end a game) this season and I finally got the job done, which is nice."
Perhaps the Bees should have pyrotechnics after every game. They have now won three games in a row in front of large crowds of 11,000-plus with all three games featuring post-game fireworks.
"It's nice to win in front of crowds like that," said Bees manager Bobby Mitchell. "That was an exciting game. Both teams could have won it. We had some good at bats in the ninth with (Sean) Rodriguez and (Freddy) Sandoval and then Brownie came through."
Bees starter Giancarlo Alvarado went six innings, giving up two runs on six hits with eight strikeouts even without his best stuff. He pitched his way into and out of trouble in the sixth inning, giving up a single and two walks to load the bases, but striking out the side to end the threat. With one out, Alvarado needed a dozen pitches to finish off New Orleans designated hitter Raul Casanova, who fouled off eight pitches before finally striking out.
"(Alvarado) pretty much struggled all evening trying to get his pitches down," said Mitchell. "But he battled and got out of some jams, which was huge."
Bees reliever Kevin Jepsen, in his last appearance before heading to North Carolina to begin training camp for the USA Olympic team, pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory.
The Bees fell behind 2-0 early, but knotted the score in the second when Adam Pavkovich ripped a two-run homer. It was Pavkovich's 20th home run of the year. The score remained tied at two until the bottom of the sixth, when Salt Lake scored on a wild pitch by New Orleans' Ivan Maldonado. The Zephyrs knotted the game back up in the seventh, however, with a run off Bees reliever Henry Bonilla.
The Bees and Zephyrs will play the second game in the four-game series today at 2 p.m. Salt Lake is scheduled to start Nick Adenhart (6-10, 6.19 ERA) against New Orleans Nelson Figueroa (3-3, 3.84).BEELINES: Today's game will be televised on KJZZ, Ch. 14. ... Salt Lake infielder Matt Brown and Jepsen are off to join the USA Olympic team on Monday. They are headed to training camp in North Carolina before going to Beijing for the Games. ... Bees pitcher Shane Loux won his 11th game on Friday night, leaving him just two short of the all-time franchise record for wins in a season. That mark is held by teammate Dustin Moseley, who won 13 games for the Bees in 2006.