After six innings of play against the Utah Marshalls Friday night, the Alaska Goldpanners were down, but not out. Midway through the seventh inning, however, out was all they were.
The ‘Panner bats went cold Friday at Growden Park and a five run seventh inning for the Marshalls put the game out of reach as Alaska lost 9-3. The Goldpanners are now 19-8 on the season and trail the series 1-2.
The first game of the series between the two teams on Wednesday was an offensive showdown with a combined total of 17 hits. Thursday was a pitcher’s duel as the ‘Panners eked out a 3-2 win. Friday looked like another defensive game until Utah started connecting on their swings, but the Goldpanners couldn’t do the same.
“It’s tough,” said Goldpanners head coach Anthony Ferro. “Bryce (Armstrong) pitched pretty good, but he made two mistakes and that’s what happens when you’re playing a good team. He gave up two two-run home runs and it was just difficult for us to come back from that when you’re not getting quality at-bats.”
In 5.2 innings of work, Armstrong did strikeout seven batters while walking just one, but the five hits he allowed included the pair of two-run homers Ferro referred to. Garrett Cooper, who has been outstanding on offense since joining the team, came into relieve Armstrong and proceeded to give up five runs on six hits in 2.1 innings of work.
It was the offense that kept the ‘Panners from succeeding, however. While Alaska managed six hits on the day, half of them came after they fell behind 9-1. No ‘Panner had more than one hit, though Ryan Pierce did manage to go 1-for-1 with one run and one RBI. That wasn’t enough to get the win in the end.
“We’ve got to get better at the plate,” Ferro said. “We’ve got to get tougher. It’s the same story every single day and (the players) have to make a decision. All we can do is coach them up. At the end of the day, these kids have to make a decision on whether they’re going to compete at the plate or continue to go down. All we can do as coaches is try to lead the horse to water. We can’t make them drink.”
Alaska initially fell behind 4-0 due to the pair of two-run homers before pulling within 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth. The five run seventh made it a 9-1 game in favor of Utah before the Goldpanners added two late runs in the bottom of the ninth to give the game it’s final score.
The ‘Panners and the Marshalls concluded their series this week on Saturday with a doubleheader. Both games ended after press time. The Goldpanners will remain at Growden this week as they host a five-game series against the Boulder Colegians. The first game of the series is scheduled for Monday at 6:30 p.m.
Contact sports reporter Hart Pisani at 459-7530 or follow him at twitter.com/FDNMSports.