Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Home Sweet Home

T-Bones take 2 of 3 in first home series

June 11, 2003

Kansas City T-Bones' opening-day starter Jonathan Krysa did his best Dorothy imitation by jumping up and down behind the mound and clicking his shoes together to keep limber.

Krysa, along with the rest of the ball club, must have been thinking there truly was no place like home.

The T-Bones took the field for the first time at their new home, CommunityAmerica Ballpark June 6, in front of a standing-room-only crowd of 7,014 new fans.

Krsya, decked out in the home white jersey with T-Bone-red pinstripes, threw everything he could against the visiting Sioux City Explorers. However, allowing only three hits and one run while striking out seven batters in eight innings of work was not enough.

The Explores posted one run in the top of the fifth after the leadoff runner reached on an error and came around to score off a single later in the inning.

Kansas City staged an impressive rally in the bottom of the ninth when centerfielder Rick Preito led off with a double and first baseman Ray Brown moved him over to third with a one-out single. The stage was all but set for the T-Bones' leading homerun slugger Chad Ehrnsberger to come up with a big hit and send the opening-day crowd home happy.

Ehrnsberger did get the pitch he wanted and ripped it over the wall in left field, inches foul, much to the disbelief of players and coaches alike.

"Well, bottom of the ninth, at home, that ball is fair," T-Bones manager Al Gallagher said.

Ehrnsberger, who grounded out second to end the game a moment later, said he got a good look at the ball after it left his bat.

"It was fair," Ehrnsberger said. "But, he (the umpire) has a job to do and he made the call he thought was right."

The T-Bones finally heated up at the plate, snapped the team's five game losing streak and picked up the club's first home win by knocking off the Explorers 7-6 the following night.

The Explorers jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, but T-Bones' shortstop Jack Jones and the rest of the team caught fire in the bottom of the seventh. Jones got things cooking by pummeling the first pitch he saw over the left-center field wall for a leadoff homer. Before they were done in the seventh, Kansas City scorched the Explorers for six runs, six hits and went through three different visiting pitchers. The T-Bones rolled on to win 7-6 in front of the crowd of 4,821. Pitcher Wascar Serrano got the win, reliever D.J. Johnson recorded the save and every T-Bones' batter collected at least one hit.

"Oh man, it was great to get that first one at home," Jones said. "You can tell the difference in the locker room, it is like we had forgot how to win."

The team stayed hot June 8 by thumping Sioux City 13-2 in front of 3,545 fans on family day. T-Bones' left-hander Tony Bacci recorded the win after throwing eight effective innings, and Brown finished 3-5 with two RBIs. Kansas City collected a season-high 17 hits during the contest and, for the second game in a row, each batter had collected at least one hit.

"A lot of hitting is contagious," Brown said. "Definitely, when the crowd is behind you, that increases the team's intensity."

However, the T-Bones' winning streak was short-lived. The first-place Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks rolled into town and right over the last-place T-Bones beginning June 9. The T-Bones jumped out to a 6-5 lead, but fell by a final count of 13-8. The bullpen collapsed in the eighth inning and allowed eight runs.

The T-Bones' homecoming was dampened again June 10, literally. The 2,886 fans on hand had to sit through a 58-minute rain delay before the teams took the field. Kansas City. was enjoying a 3-1 lead before the fourth inning when, once again, the pitching staff caved. T-Bones' starter Nate Sevier allowed seven runs in the fourth before relief pitcher Tom Masterman mopped up the mess and ended the inning.

Ehrnsberger did, however, provide the soaked fans with plenty of highlights at the plate. He finished the night 3-5 with two home runs and three RBIs. His offensive explosion made him the Northern League leader in home runs. His first blast was a moon-shot in the sixth that screamed over the 18-foot-high mini-monster of a wall in left field. An inning later his second, a 2-RBI bomb, sailed just over the same fence in left.

"It felt good hitting them, it would have been nicer though if they could have given us the lead," Ehrnsberger said. "Honestly, I would rather go 0-4 in a win than hit two home runs in a loss."

The loss dropped the T-Bones to 6-11-1 on the year and prevented them from climbing out of the cellar above Sioux City, which split a doubleheader against Winnipeg that same night.

The T-Bones tonight will begin the final leg of their inaugural home stand by taking on the Winnipeg Goldeyes in a three-game series before hitting the road again.

Ehrnsberger said the club is thrilled to be playing in front of the Kansas City crowd, but the team feels pressure to please the fans with wins.

"It does feel like home," he said. "But, it seems like we are pressing too hard hoping to see the seats full."

After closing out their series with Winnipeg this weekend, the T-Bones will hit the road Monday, June 16 for a six-game road trip that will take them to Lincoln and Sioux Falls.

The T-Bones will return to CommunityAmerica Ballpark June 23 to face Joliet.

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