Raptors fall apart late, still looking for first 'W'

Jul 31 2012 - 10:46pm

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OGDEN -- Three games in, the Ogden Raptors are still 0-for the season's second half.

After not allowing a hit for the first five innings, the Raptors squandered an early lead to fall 7-4 to the Idaho Falls Chukars Tuesday night at Lindquist Field.

The Raptors (0-3, 21-20) won the Pioneer League South Division first-half title, but have lost three straight to open the second half.

The loss came on the heels of one of the Raptors' worst performances in recent memory, a 16-5 drubbing to the Orem Owls, which Raptors manager Damon Berryhill described as one of the worst he's ever seen played in the professional ranks.

"Yesterday was a disaster, and I thought we played better tonight," Berryhill said. "We pitched really well through five, and I thought we still pitched well enough to win. It's just a situation where they did a better job of hitting with runners in scoring position than we did."

Leading 3-0 in the sixth, Ogden pitching came apart. Starter Ross Stripling and reliever Kazuki Nashimi combined to keep Idaho Falls hitless through five, but the Chukars broke through in the sixth with five hits, including two doubles, off Nashimi in a three-run inning.

The damage could have been worse if not for right-fielder Pat Stover's throw to cut down a run at the plate and end the inning.

The Chukars (3-0, 20-21) continued their onslaught in the seventh with four more runs off Craig Stem to break it open.

Stripling, who was perfect in his three innings, was a bright spot for the Raptors. The fifth-round pick out of Texas A&M struck out three and lowered his season ERA to 0.45 before being lifted due to an innings limit.

"Idaho Falls is really aggressive, so I had to make some really good first pitches," Stripling said. "I was able to get some first-pitch outs. I mixed in a lot of off-speed and kept them off-balance."

Stripling pitched 126 innings for Texas A&M in the spring, so the Raptors have kept him on a strict innings limit, usually three innings per start.

"I wish we could use him for more innings," Berryhill said. "We're happy to have him for three (innings), but it would be nice to be able to turn him loose for the whole ballgame."

Ogden was quick to get on the board, but couldn't maintain their offensive output. The second Raptors batter of the game, Eric Smith, tripled into the right-field corner and scored two batters later on fielder's choice from Jesus Valdez.

In the second, Ogden added two more runs, including a run-scoring single from Smith. The Raptors scored just once more in the final seven innings -- an eighth inning hit from Jeremy Rathjen that scored Tae-Hyeok Nam.

The Raptors put two runners on in the ninth, but Chukars reliever Cory Hall struck out Jose Capellan and Nam to end the game.

Smith went 2-for-4 with a walk and stolen base, and Kevin Thompson got on base three times by going 2-for-3 with a walk.

The two teams will meet tonight at 7 p.m. to continue their three-game series.

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