A slow start will not cause the Vigilantes to panic. After all, as the Long Beach Riptide last year, they were third after the first half of the season, but won the second-half pennant and the Western Baseball League championship for a second straight season.
But that didn't make Tuesday's 3-1 loss to Grays Harbor, in front of an announced crowd of 1,935 at Saddleback College, any easier for Coach Brad Leslie to take.
Leslie, the pitching coach, is running the team while Manager Buck Rodgers is in Ohio because of the death of his mother last Friday. And as a pitching coach, he hates to see a strong effort by a starter wasted, such as the 6 2/3-inning seven-strikeout outing by Mike Smith on Tuesday night.
But Smith suffered his second loss in three decisions because of a two-run double by Gull second baseman Joel Nations, which broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh.
The hit went off the glove of center fielder Reuben Smiley--"I should have had it, but when I turned around the ball was right on me," he said--propelled Grays Harbor to its fourth straight victory. Gull starter Darrell Goedhart (2-1) pitched a seven-hitter, walking one and striking out two.
The loss dropped Mission Viejo to 8-9; Grays Harbor is 9-8.
"Nothing against Goedhart," Leslie said, "but for that guy to go nine and hold us to one run . . . well I'm embarrassed. When I saw him in the first inning I was ecstatic. I never would have believed he would keep us to a run."
The Vigilantes scratched out their only run in the fourth. Chris Ashbach and Smiley hit singles. Carl Nichols then sent a grounder to third. Smiley was forced at second, but slid hard and high into Nations, and his throw to first was wild, allowing Ashbach to score.
The Gulls--minus league-leading home run hitter Mike Rendina (10), who is out because of a separated shoulder--tied the score in the sixth.
Patrick Moultrie laid down a one-out bunt and beat Smith's diving effort to catch him at first. Al Mealing walked, and when Corey Parker dropped Brooks' pickoff throw, Moultrie scampered to third. He scored on David Sanchez's sacrifice fly.
Club president Pat Elster announced the team had reached an agreement with former major leaguer Pat Barberie, and expected to activate him today.