Thursday, July 2, 2009

We ain't afraid of no Ghosts; let's play two!

Weisenheimer and my Sweetie, the official scorer, bolted out of Colorado Springs after a late breakfast with family yesterday morning and rolled into Casper, Wyoming at about 5:30 p.m. thinking we had a little time to freshen up and maybe grab a catnap before heading out to watch the Casper Ghosts play host to Idaho Falls in a 7:05 contest. Luckily, Sweetie decided to plot the best path to Mike Lansing Field before taking 20 winks; in so doing, she discovered that the action was to start at 6:05, and that they planned to play two. So, we quickly grabbed our scorecards and gear and headed to the ballpark.

It turned out that the twin bill was scheduled to make up for the non-playing of the first stop on our Pioneer League tour, a June 26 date in Idaho Falls that was scrubbed because of "wet grounds." We've been following bad weather around on this trip. It was a beautiful day when we arrived in Idaho Falls, as the water preceded us. Our game in Colorado Springs was suspended midway by robust thunderstorms. And sure enough, we'd seen some nasty looking clouds as we wound our way into Casper.

Still, things looked OK as we arrived at the yard. It was warm and humid and cloudy, but comfortable. Lansing Field isn't too fancy, but it's comfortable. It's not picturesque as some we've seen, but in a pleasant setting. Mascot "Hobart" is a purple platypus. They don't go crazy with the promotions. Though there was some good humor. Just before the start of the game the PA announcer urged us to cheer as the Ghosts took the field. Nothing happened. We couldn't see them...

The home team took an early lead, but then the rain found us again. Casper led 4-1 in the third inning of the first game when it started to thunder, lightning and pour. After the Chukars batted in the top of the frame the umpires called play as the sparse crowd headed for what little cover is available at Lansing Field. One local opined that he'd never seen it rain so hard there during baseball season.

During the rain delay we had a nice chat with Ghosts' CEO Kevin Haughian, who spotted us because of all the out-of-town ticket stubs on Sweetie, the official scorer's official score book. He was a little disappointed with the crowd after having a couple thousand for the Ghosts' home opener the previous night. There were only a few hundred at best on a Wednesday night with threatening weather. He also thought it might help if the club won a few. They came into the doubleheader with one win and six losses. Also during the day, we met a gentleman from Pullman who does media relations work for the WSU baseball team. He was in Casper as part of his quest to see a game in all 50 states. He's up to about 42.

The rain let up and, after a 34-minute delay, we were back at action. Lucky for us, not so much for Casper. Their starting pitcher, Ricardo Ferrer, had a fine outing, allowing just one run on three hits in five innings. But they took him out and the wheels fell off. Idaho Falls scored three in the sixth and two in the seventh to win 6-5. Game 1 box score, but not with Sweetie, the official scorer, stats.

The nightcap was a 0-0 tie through five innings as Idaho Falls starter Carlos Arias worked five strong innings while Casper hurlers Paul Bargas and Coty Woods blanked the Chukars. Idaho Falls plated a pair in the sixth with the help of an error, and went into the bottom of the seventh with a 2-0 advantage and Lewis Gomez, who had pitched a scoreless sixth, on the hill. But Avery Barnes (the Big Gator) led off with a single and Casper catcher Brandon Whitby hit a towering, opposite-field homer to right to tie the contest and give us extra innings!

Casper had a chance to win it in the bottom of the eighth, when a walk, a hit batsman, and a sacrifice put runners on second and third with just one out. But the runner on third got picked off on what may have been a botched squeeze play, and then Barnes whiffed.

Idaho Falls then took the lead in the ninth. Tito Espinosa led off with a triple on a towering fly ball to left center that probably should have been caught. Espinosa then scored on a fly ball to left field. Casper manager Tony Diaz got run for the game for saying the umpire was "f---ing blind" -- with so few people in the stands we could hear everything! Diaz was arguing that Espinosa had left third early. The umps apparently felt that nothing that happens at 12:20 a.m. during a baseball game can be called "early."

Not to worry. Whitby led off the Casper ninth with a base hit, moved to second on an error, and scored the tying run on a pinch double by Chandler Laurent. Laurent moved to third on a groundout. With the Chukar infield playing in, Eliezer Mesa grounded one to Espinosa at first. Espinosa, however, double clutched and went from hero to goat as Laurent beat the throw home and gave the Ghosts their second win of the season. Box score.

In all, we got in 16 innings of baseball -- three more than we'd seen in our three previous games combined! It all ended at 12:38 a.m., Mountain Time. There we are above, happy to be a little damp and watching baseball after midnight in Casper, Wyoming.

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