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Fresno Strikes Out in Ventura : Gulls Sweep Doubleheader With Power Pitching, Hitting

Times Staff Writer

Todd Stottlemyre must believe the California League begins with a K.

The 20-year-old right-handed pitcher struck out the side in the first inning of the Ventura County Gulls’ opener two weeks ago, and he opened the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader by striking out the first two batters on six pitches.

The Gulls coupled Stottlemyre’s power pitching with a convincing display of power hitting to sweep the Fresno Giants, 6-2 and 16-5, in seven-inning games at Ventura College.

Stottlemyre (3-0) went all the way and struck out eight, then relaxed in the dugout and watched his teammates pound out 15 hits-- seven for extra bases--in the second game. The victories improved the Gulls’ record to 8-6 in the league’s Southern Division. Fresno fell to 7-5.

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Right-hander Jose Mesa (2-0) benefited from the second-game explosion. Although he threw 87 pitches in five innings and fell behind on several batters, he was never in danger of falling behind on the scoreboard. Mesa’s outing was a breeze compared to that of Fresno starter Sam Moore.

“Sam’s pitches found too many bats,” Fresno Manager Tim Blackwell said.

The first five batters Moore faced reached base, and scored, to give the Gulls a 5-0 first-inning lead. After Oscar Escobar walked on four pitches, Luis Reyna tripled, Rob Ducey singled, Darryl Landrum walked and Greg Myers homered high over the right-field fence.

Myers, who had five RBIs in the second game after going 0 for 3 in the opener, homered off side-arm pitcher Todd Oakes in the Gulls’ eight-run fifth inning. Ducey, who had six RBIs Wednesday, also homered in the fifth.

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Ducey’s drive, a three-run shot that landed a foot inside the right-field foul pole, was his fifth home run of the season. He leads the Gulls with 20 RBIs, but lags behind Landrum in home runs.

Landrum hit his seventh home run of the season in the opener. The two-run blast came in the fifth inning and gave Stottlemyre a 6-1 lead.

The Gulls had jumped in front, 4-0, in the third when singles by Sandy Guerrero and Escobar were followed with triples by Ducey and Gerronimo Berroa. Berroa circled the bases when the Giants’ relay went awry.

“I’m pleased with the way we’re swinging the bat,” Gulls Manager Glenn Ezell said. “And I would expect the power we’ve shown to continue.”

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Stottlemyre, Mesa and the rest of the pitching staff wouldn’t mind continuing to pitch with big leads, either.

Said Stottlemyre: “When the guys score runs early, I’m able to cut loose and challenge hitters. If I get behind on the count, I can come back with my fastball. Pitching with a lead is the easy way.”

Stottlemyre said his velocity diminished as the game wore on, but it didn’t show until the seventh. T.J. McDonald and Joe Kmak produced a run for Fresno with a single and double, but shortstop Guerrero made a slick backhanded stop of a ground ball hit by Hector Quinones to prevent further damage. Stottlemyre then struck out lead-off batter John Skurla for the third time to end the game.

Guerrero, who usually starts at second, played well in place of Eric Yelding, who strained his right shoulder last week. Guerrero’s stab to his left of a ground ball that started a double play in the third inning of the second game was particularly impressive. Guerrero, who hits left-handed, also had four hits, scored two runs and stole a base.

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Escobar, who replaced Guerrero at second and batted in Yelding’s lead-off spot, singled and scored in the first game and doubled twice, singled and scored three times in the second game.

“Oscar hasn’t had the at-bats yet,” Ezell said, “but he can do the job.”

And when the Gulls get an eight-strikeout pitching performance and a 15-hit attack in successive seven-inning games, Ezell’s job is made easy.

Gull Notes

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Although the attendance was announced as 1,015, no more than 600 people watched the games. Gulls owner Ken McMullen explained by saying, “The league wants paid attendance figures. We sold 1,015 tickets. Our season ticket sales are more than 400 and we sold a large block of tickets to a child abuse and neglect center. . . . Eight Gulls are hitting better than .300 and the team average is .307. Luis Reyna is the leader at .378. . . . Wednesday was a homecoming of sorts for Fresno catcher Gary Jones, who started the first game. Jones played at Ventura College in 1981 and at Ventura High in 1979 and ’80. . . . Injured shortstop Eric Yelding said he threw lightly Wednesday, will take batting practice today and may play by the weekend. . . . Jeff Musselman (1-1) of the Gulls will face John Burkett (0-1) today at 1 p.m. at Ventura College.


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