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Aaron Schoonmaker

Bulls get fundamental to win home opener

Posted April 8, 2013
Updated April 9, 2013

— The Durham Bulls defeated the Gwinnett Braves Monday night in a baseball fan’s baseball game. A 2-1 Bulls win on opening night at Durham Bulls Athletic Park was defined by patience, strategy, good pitching and timely offense.

Ultimately, top prospect Wil Myers started a rally in the ninth inning with a single and Durham was able to earn the walk-off win on a two-run error by Braves shortstop Sean Kazmar after the Bulls’ Brandon Guyer simply put the ball in play. The winning run, scored by Leslie Anderson, is what sent the 8,035 fans home happy. The build-up to the ninth is what made the game more than a simple win. DURHAM BULLS HOME OPENER Slideshow: Bulls win home opener over Gwinnett Braves

“Earlier in the game, we couldn’t get anything going,” Guyer said. “Whenever you get the runs, early or late, we’ll take them.”

The game was scoreless in the eighth inning and the teams had combined for just five hits. Seven-hole hitter Cole Figueroa had just reached base on a two-strike single the other way after a seven-pitch at-bat. Then, Vince Belnome, the only other Durham player with a hit to that point, promptly did his job and laid down a sacrifice bunt.

The DBAP crowd , anxious for some sort of scoring, undoubtedly, gave Belnome a round of applause as he trotted back to the dugout. It was both knowledgeable and appreciative.

A walk later and leadoff hitter Rich Thompson stepped in with two on. He grounded out to second base. It was a job well done after falling behind 1-2 - make contact and move the runners up. Durham Bulls Logo More Bulls Stories

After 198 combined pitches and nearly eight complete innings, Figueroa became the first player for either team to even reach third base. Mike Fontenot struck out to end the inning but the momentum was building.

“You kind of feel it. Once the leadoff man gets on base you are like, ‘okay,’” head coach Charlie Montoyo said. “You think it’s going to be our game and you kind of feel it.”

As the game moved to the ninth, Gwinnett scored an unearned run on two Bulls errors with no hits in the inning. The Bulls came up with their back against the wall and one game plan: be patient.

“We were being patient,” Montoyo said. “The guy (reliever Andrew Russell) wasn’t throwing strikes and we were looking for the ball that we could drive.”

Myers got that pitch and singled to lead off the inning. Anderson got that pitch and singled to put runners on the corners. Catcher Chris Giminez was patient and drew a walk to load the bases with nobody out. Guyer stepped in to the box.

“Bases loaded and his control wasn’t totally there,” Guyer said. “I was going to take a strike and look for a good pitch to hit.”

The count moved to 3-0 before Guyer took the first strike. The next pitch was bounced to a drawn-in Kazmar who tried to back hand it and make a throw to the plate all in one motion. His glove came up. The ball stayed down.

“It’s always the same against these guys, whoever makes the error is going to lose,” Montoyo said. “We made the error in the top of the ninth, they took the lead. Then all of a sudden they made the error for us to win the game.”

All Guyer did was his job.

“I was just trying to put it in play and find a hole,” Guyer said. “When you do that, good things happen.”

The Bulls circled their order in the final two innings and with the exception of the Fontenot strikeout, everyone executed their role for the situation.

“We did a good job. It was five or six good at bats,” Montoyo lauded, perhaps short-changing his team by a couple.

Ideally, little league coaches and parents across the stadium were explaining to the next generation of baseballers why a groundout is a good thing sometimes and the importance of catching before you can throw.

Lastly, it would be an injustice on my part if I did not point out the importance of throwing strikes. Bulls starter Jake Odorizzi was on an 85-pitch limit Monday. He threw 83 economically over six and two-thirds as 52 went for strikes and not a single Braves player saw third base on his watch. He gave the Bulls a chance to win it late so long as they executed.

“Hat’s off to all the guys in the lineup and our pitching staff,” Guyer said. “Without the way Odorizzi pitched, it wouldn’t have mattered.”

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