The East Texas Pump Jacks, coming off two close losses on the road, found their cure in a home doubleheader against the spiraling McKinney Marshals Thursday night.
Back in the friendly confines of historic Driller Park, the Pump Jacks edged the Marshals in the first game of the evening, 4-3, before running away with a 10-2 victory in the nightcap.
The evening saw Zac Fisher hit a pair of monstrous home runs, a straight steal of home by Blake Brown, two five-run innings by the home team, an altercation that saw both benches briefly empty, a head coach ejected, and a come-from-behind win.
Two wins also gave the Pump Jacks sole possession of first place in the second half of the season. The Jacks hold a half-game lead over the first-half champion Victoria Generals, who also won Thursday night. The idle Brazos Valley Bombers slipped into third place, a full game back of East Texas.
The night opened innocently enough, with the Marshals grabbing an early 2-0 lead. Fisher changed that in a hurry in the bottom of the third, launching a 1-0 pitch to the top of the trees beyond the right field fence. His third home run of the season, a solo shot, cut McKinney’s lead in half.
The Jacks tied the score on a Matt Carvutto double in the fourth frame. The first of his three two-baggers on the night brought home Russell LaFleur, who had walked and then stole second base.
The Marshals recaptured the lead in the top of the fifth inning. Bryson Miles singled and stole second, took third on a strikeout and crossed the plate on an errant throw.
The crucial home half of the fifth inning began with the first three Pump Jacks reaching base. Bryan Peters was hit by a pitch to lead off, with Brown taking over as a pinch runner. Michael Haynes laid down a sacrifice bunt that was mishandled by the pitcher, allowing him to reach base safely. Aaron McCain then drew a walk to load the bases.
Bases loaded and no outs are a good start towards erasing a one-run deficit, but a pair of strikeouts eroded the Pump Jacks’ confidence. When LaFleur went to an 0-2 count, that confidence gave way to pure hope. And just then, head coach Ben Taylor reached into his bag of tricks – and pulled out Brown.
With the Marshals’ pitcher and catcher focused on completing the strikeout, Taylor sent Brown walking down the baseline, then breaking into a full sprint to steal home. The move came as such a surprise that the McKinney catcher failed to even tag Brown as he slid home with a most unconventional tying run.
Bolstered by Brown, the Pump Jacks scored the eventual winning run an inning later. After a walk to Carvutto and a wild pitch that moved him to second base, Haynes lined a single down the left field line. Carvutto rounded third base and easily scored for a 4-3 lead.
The wild pitch that advanced Carvutto was also when the game went a little sideways. Reliever Clint Cooper was facing Fisher for the first time of the evening, and Cooper’s delivery sailed a foot behind Fisher. The home plate umpire, concerned that the pitch had a message behind it, warned Cooper, raising the ire of McKinney head coach Roland Fanning.
During Fanning’s argument with the umpire, Taylor expressed his concern about the Cooper’s intent. When Taylor and Fanning ended up face to face, both teams inched out of their dugouts, prepared to defend their skippers. The umpires quickly restored order, but not before Fanning was shown the gate.
Miguel Pena earned his third win against no losses with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief. Pena whiffed six of the 10 hitters he faced, allowing one hit and one walk. Pena entered in relief of Khris Tate, who pitched 4.1 innings and allowed three runs, although just one was earned.
The half-hour break between games did nothing to cool the Pump Jacks offense in the nightcap.
Fisher opened the scoring again, this time with a two-run homer to almost the same spot as his first of the night. Fisher’s two home runs give him four on the season, tying Lee Orr for the team lead. Coincidentally, Orr was on first base at the time, having reached after being hit by a pitch.
Peters was hit by the very next pitch and Haynes followed with a single. Jesse Santo drew a two-out walk and Chase Graskewicz stroked a single to left field to bring Peters and Haynes across the plate. Santo came home four pitches later as an inside offering to Orr skipped to the backstop. The Pump Jacks scored five times in the inning, chasing McKinney starter Vance Woodruff before he even recorded three outs.
Tyler Mack started the second game, and while his stint was short, he was dealing. He dispatched all six hitters he faced with a total of just 14 pitches, leaving after two perfect innings.
Chris Larsen took over and went three innings, allowing a pair of runs in the fifth frame. Larsen walked one and K’d one to pick up his third win of the season. Andy Steinmetz pitched a perfect sixth inning, and Dusty Ross hurled a scoreless seventh in a non-pressure situation.
With their lead sitting precariously at 5-2, the Pump Jacks’ offense fired back up in the fifth inning. Haynes, Luke Valerius, Santo, LaFleur and Orr all drew bases on balls. LaFleur and Orr each earned an RBI when they drew a free pass with the bases loaded.
Carvutto took the 7-2 lead and put the game officially out of reach. With the bases full, he lined a pitch all the way to the wall in the left-center field gap. Carvutto’s third double of the night cleared the bases and pushed the lead to 10-2. The two-base hit also moved Carvutto into second place in the league with 14 doubles, behind only Fisher.
Carvutto finished the night with three hits, all doubles, while Fisher’s two hits both cleared the fence for home runs. Haynes added three hits on the night, and Graskewicz went 1-for-3 with a run and two RBI in the nightcap.
The Pump Jacks remain home Friday, when they welcome the Generals to Driller Park for their final meeting of the regular season.
Friday also marks a finale of sorts: the last Fireworks Friday presented by KLTV News. The Jacks will light up the sky for the fifth and final time this regular season, with a very special soundtrack for the event. If you’ve never seen a Pump Jacks fireworks show, this is not to be missed. And if you’ve seen one before, you know how memorable they are… so tell your friends and join us for this special event!
Earlier this week, the Pump Jacks announced that the season finale will be Fan Appreciation Night presented by Kilgore Ford and Buddy’s Home Furnishings. Among the special benefits for fans are:
As an added bonus, the first three hundred adults at the ballpark will receive a $50 discount card from Buddy’s Home Furnishings.
Tickets for Fan Appreciation Night are available at the Pump Jacks office at 1100 Stone Road, Suite 120, in Kilgore. Tickets are also available at the ticket office at historic Driller Park on game nights.
All tickets are subject to availability, so fans are urged to get your tickets early. Kilgore Ford has a limited number of vouchers, so don’t delay and visit Kilgore Ford soon!
The playoffs begin next Tuesday, August 10, with the TCL Championship Series slated to begin on Friday, August 13.
Pump Jacks Nation is now on Facebook! Visit the East Texas Pump Jacks official team page on Facebook to follow all the news and gossip about the Pump Jacks, post your thoughts on the Jacks 2010 season, upload photos, and interact with other fans. Plus, the Jacks will post specials and discounts just for the Facebook community on the page! Click the link on the left side of the Pump Jacks web site or at the top of every news article on the site, and join Pump Jacks Nation on Facebook!
To follow all Pump Jacks news, including player awards, game stories and promotions, log on to the team’s official Website at www.pumpjacksbaseball.com.
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