Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Ryan Wheeler sparks Sky Sox rally to victory over Reno

by Brooke Pryor sports@gazette.com - Published: July 6, 2013

Heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, it looked as if Ryan Wheeler's 11-game hitting streak was going to come to an end.

The Pacific Coast League All-Star wasn't having his best day at the plate, and through three at-bats, all the third baseman had to show was a groundout, strikeout and a hit into a double play.

So, when Wheeler stepped up at Security Service Field with his team down two runs and his teammate Charlie Blackmon on first, it seemed he was due for a big hit.

And with two outs, he delivered Saturday, smacking a pitch from righty Brett Lorin deep into center field, scoring Blackmon and pulling the Sky Sox within one run of tying the game.

"He's a pressure hitter," manager Glenallen Hill said. "He's been doing that all year. Late, in that situation, he typically has his best at-bats during those times."

The hit was a part of a two-out rally that pushed the Sky Sox to a 5-4 victory for their second win in as many days.

For Wheeler, the hit and the win were especially sweet because he spent last season playing for the Aces.

"There's another level of focus I get into with guys on base," he said. "I like the crowd noise, I like playing Reno, so anytime we can beat them, it's awesome."

Moments after Wheeler's hit, left fielder Xavier Nady knocked a double of his own, this time to right field, to bring Wheeler across the plate with the tying run.

But that wouldn't be it for the Sky Sox's two-out rally.

Ben Paulsen sent an RBI single to left field, and though he was ultimate tagged out at second, the hit was enough to push Nady across the plate for the game-winning run.

But the Sky Sox would have to hold on to the one-run lead for three more outs, a potentially difficult task given that Reno was getting big hits off the Sky Sox pitching staff, including a home run by Chris Owings in the third.

Hill knew just who he wanted on the mound in the final moments of the game because that pitcher, Coty Woods, called his own number for the final out, even after allowing two men on base.

"He wanted to be in that situation," Hill said. "It's been a long time since he's been in a save situation and you've got two outs with a base open. "I went out and asked him who he wanted to pitch to and he said he wanted (Brad) Snyder."

And in four pitches, Woods got Snyder to ground out to second baseman Hernan Iribarren, who threw the ball to Paulsen for the final out.

"We've had seven or eight comeback wins now," Wheeler said. "So anytime someone starts the rally or just starts the inning with a hit, we just look around and say 'alright, here we go again."

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