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Curve Hangs--Pirates Slip Past Banning, 9-8

It was an opportunity Joe Miller couldn’t pass. Besides, he was overdue and sorely in need of self-redemption.

Sensing victory, the San Pedro right fielder drilled a one-out double to right that scored Brian Schiazzano and lifted the host Pirates to a 9-8 Pacific League victory over Banning on Thursday afternoon.

Banning right-hander Mike Busby’s first two fastballs had Miller behind 0-2 in the count, but he hung a high curve on the next pitch and Miller poked it into right center and Schiazzano galloped home with the winning run.

“I just had to come through,” said Miller, who was 0 for 7 in two games against Banning to that point and helped Banning score two runs in the sixth when he slipped and let Jimmy Gonzalez’s hit roll to the fence for a triple.

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“I had a strong feeling he’d be throwing me a curve and I choked up on the bat and put my mind on hitting the ball.”

San Pedro improved to 3-1 in league play and 5-4 overall, while Banning fell to 3-1 and 6-3.

The Pirates jumped to a 3-0 first-inning lead and led 4-1 after three innings before Banning started chipping away. The Pilots scored two runs in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and their solo run in the top of the seventh gave them a short-lived advantage.

Shortstop Jesse Espinoza drove in Eric Fierro with a fielder’s choice in the third, and Busby’s two-run homer to left pulled Banning’s to 4-3 in the fourth inning.

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The Pilots claimed the lead the next inning when San Pedro pitcher Gerard Castenada threw wildly to third base on Gonzalez’s bunt, allowing Julian Pardo to score. One out later Ralph Nuno singled home Espinoza.

Two runs in the sixth allowed Banning to take a 7-4 lead. The Pilots had two men on when Gonzalez hit a soft fly down the right-field line. Miller ran it down but slipped before he reached the ball and it bounded away as Espinoza and Raul Diaz crossed the plate easily.

San Pedro climbed back with a four-run sixth that began with singles by Schiazzano and Matt Rasband.

Gonzalez replaced Busby after Schiazzano’s hit but was ineffective. After Rasband’s single, he induced Miller to fly to deep right but walked the next three batters, one intentionally, as San Pedro tied the game, 7-7. Busby came in again, this time in relief, but the first man he faced, Glenn Merrick, drove home Castenada with a sacrifice fly.

Banning wasted no time tying the game in the top of the seventh. Busby’s double to the base of the left field wall scored Chico Limas, who had opened the frame with a sharp single. Fierro then walked. Eric Boysen relieved Castenada and recorded the final two outs of the inning to leave the game tied, 8-8, going into the seventh.

Earlier in the week Banning beat San Pedro, 5-4, but this time the Pirates had the home field advantage.

“When we came in here I felt I’d be happy with a split,” said Banning Coach Syl Saavedra, who watched his team commit seven errors in the contest. “And when we were down three runs, I still thought a split would be OK.

“But we came back and took the lead and then go ahead and lose. No, I’m not happy with the split anymore. There’s just something about playing at San Pedro. Something strange always seems to happen.”

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Boysen (1-0) earned the win, while Busby was saddled with the loss to fall to 2-2.

Banning outhit San Pedro, 12-8, as Fierro, Diaz, Espinoza and Busby knocked out two hits apiece.

San Pedro catcher Dale Johnson was three for four, and shortstop Ken Stapleton collected two hits.


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