SALT LAKE CITY — For all the little leaguers in attendance during the Salt Lake Bees' 9-7 win over Fresno Monday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark, the visiting team provided a live demonstration on the importance of keeping your head in the game.
Having just negated a Bees fifth-inning rally to reclaim the lead, Grizzlies reliever Mitch Lively missed stepping on first on an assist on a ground ball and began an epic argument with the first-base umpire.
Following walks to Bees right fielder Matt Long and first baseman Efren Navarro, left fielder Chris Nelson's hit to first base sparked a perplexing sequence of events. While Lively was arguing with the umpire, Long took advantage and took off to home without even a glance from Lively. The run infuriated the Fresno pitcher so much he felt the need to continue his verbal disagreement with renewed passion.
Navarro took Long's lead and after a brief pause realized home plate was his for the taking. He put the Bees ahead 8-7, all while Lively and Grizzlies manager Bob Mariano did their best to get tossed — and eventually succeeded. Second baseman Luis Rodriguez immediately scored Nelson on a drive down the right-field line to put Salt Lake up 9-7.
"It's just one of those situations where you look around and you don't see anyone calling timeout," said Bees manager Keith Johnson. "It was a good job by Navarro to continue to look at the play and to keep going. Obviously our guys did a good job tonight of running the bases hard and it paid off."
Eric Cendejas took to the mound for the first Triple-A start of his career and had the cobwebs shook out early. After giving up a leadoff walk, Cendajas snagged a line drive and threw out the runner to clear the bases on his way to retiring the first six hitters he faced.
"Cendejas, the kid came up from A-ball and gave up that run, but he did a good job for us. He's been handling himself professionally and when he's gotten the ball he's gone out and competed. Whether he's giving up runs or not, we feel really good about his ability to compete," Johnson said.
The offense picked Cendejas up in the second, adding a run off a bases-loaded walk. Then a Matt Long home run in the third gave the Bees a 2-1 lead.
After giving up two hits and one run over three innings, Cendejas gave way to Josh Judy in the fourth. He gave up six hits and four runs in his one and only inning of work.
Salt Lake rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the fourth and came all the way back to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning behind the bats of Navarro and Nelson.
With two on and two out, Navarro hit a line drive to right — scoring two to pull Salt Lake within a run at 5-4. Nelson followed up Navarro's at-bat with a two-run home run to give the Bees a 6-5 lead.
The two runs scored during the dispute at first proved to be the difference. The two teams face off again Tuesday night at 6:45 p.m. at Spring Mobile Ballpark.