BRUCE BUMSTEAD / BRANDON SUN
Reston Rockets' Andrew Lougheed beats the pick-off throw to first during Wednesday night's MSBL playoff game against the Brandon Cloverleafs at Andrews Field. The Cloverleafs won 4-1.
Matt Gunning made the best of his break from the end of the Manitoba Senior Baseball League’s regular season and the start of the best-of-five semifinal between the Brandon Cloverleafs and Reston Rockets by hitting the batting cage.
His hard work paid off in the series opener Wednesday night at Andrews Field as the Cloverleaf first baseman went 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs and two walks to help his team pull out a 4-1 win and grab a 1-0 lead in the series.
While Gunning had a perfect day at the plate, his biggest at-bat came in the bottom of the third inning. With the game tied 1-1 and runners at the corners, Gunning crushed a shot deep to centre field that scored Max Poulin and Kevin McNeill and gave Brandon a lead it wouldn’t give up.
Those runs proved even more important as the Cloverleafs knew they had to respond to Cole Buchy’s run scored on a fielder’s choice in the top of the inning. He led off the rally with a triple.
"(We felt we could come back from the early run as) it’s still early in the game," Gunning said. "We just want to stay out of the big inning. That guy (Sheldon Moore) did a good job of getting the RBI but we were able to limit the damage."
"Any time you give up a run in the top of the inning, it’s nice to answer back," he continued. "The way (Sean) Dryden was throwing the ball, when he’s pitching with the lead he’s really effective."
Brandon added another run in the sixth when Garrett Popplestone drove in Poulin with an RBI single. Poulin finished the gave 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored.
Dryden controlled the game after that. He picked up the win after holding the Rockets to one run on seven hits while striking out three in seven innings. Zach Mayo and Matt Mutcheson closed out the game by holding the Rockets hitless in the final two innings.
Cole Stober took the loss for Reston after surrendering four runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked four others. Brody Pinkerton had a pair of hits for Reston.
Despite dropping the series opener, Rockets manager Ross Tycoles was happy with the way his team played. He doesn’t think it will be hard for them to bounce back as he thinks they just need to do a better job of taking advantage of base runners.
"We have to score when we have guys on base," he said. "It takes runs to make emotions and that’s what I’m looking for."
Game 2 of the series will be played in Reston on Friday at 6:30 p.m. The other series between the Neepawa Farmers and Brandon Houstons Marlins will resume on Friday at Andrews Field at 7 p.m. Neepawa leads that series 1-0.
FOUL BALLS: Reston’s Aaron Tycoles and Rory Tycoles missed last night’s game after being suspended one game by the league. Rory was suspended for getting ejected in two games this season, the most recent on July 18 in Reston’s 7-2 loss to the visiting Cloverleafs. Aaron was suspended for verbal abuse of an umpire in the same contest.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 26, 2012