The Fresno Grizzlies took advantage of a pair of Omaha errors during a six-run second inning, coasting to a 7-3 victory over the Storm Chasers Sunday evening at Werner Park. The Chasers quickly cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, but were held scoreless over the final six innings.
The top of the second got off to an ominous start, as starting and losing pitcher Luis Mendoza couldn’t corral a Brett Pill one hopper back to the mound for an error. Following a single and a walk, Brandon Crawford chopped a ball up the first base line to Mendoza, whose throw to Clint Robinson glanced off Robinson’s glove for an error, scoring two. The inning spiraled out of control from there, only ending when Brandon Belt was gunned down at the plate to end the frame with the Chasers trailing 6-0.
Mendoza (8-5) was removed after three innings, allowing six runs – none earned – on six hits, walking two and striking out three. Mendoza fell to 0-4 at Werner Park this season, despite lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.26 in the ballgame.
The bottom of the third proved to be the Chasers’ only run-producing inning, though that too was aided by a defensive miscue. After Cody Clark reached on a one-out single, Joaquin Arias tapped a potential double-play grounder back toward Fresno starter Dan Runzler, who allowed the ball to go through his legs for an error. Jarrod Dyson walked to load the bases, and David Lough came through with a two-run single to shallow center. Following a double-steal, Lorenzo Cain’s grounder to third scored Dyson to make it 6-3, the last time the Chasers would seriously threaten.
Runzler (2-2) earned the win, allowing three runs – one earned – on six hits in six innings of work. He walked one and struck out four. Steve Edlefsen, a product of the University of Nebraska, breezed through three perfect innings to record his first save of the season.
Another Grizzly with Omaha connections, Millard North graduate Conor Gillaspie, went 3-for-4 with a walk in five trips to the plate. Emmanuel Burriss, not from the Omaha area, drilled a solo home run in the top of the fourth to provide the final margin.
Robinson Tejeda and newcomer Willy Lebron combined for 10 strikeouts in six innings in relief of Mendoza, allowing one run on six hits. The Chasers’ bullpen has now allowed just three runs over its last 39 innings (0.69 ERA), compiling a remarkable 50 strikeouts.
The clubs will return to Werner Park Monday night for game two of the series, with Sean O’Sullivan (4-2, 3.32) facing former Omaha Royal Shane Loux (5-10, 4.66). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.