Sky Sox rally to 11-10 extra-inning victory in home opener in front of enthusiastic fans

April 11, 2014 Updated: April 12, 2014 at 12:14 am
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Sky Sox Drew Garcia is greeted by his teammates after hitting a home run in extra innings to win the game over Round Rock 11-10 to thrill the home opener crowd on Friday, April 11, 2014. (The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

Sky Sox fan Mike Leyba waited months for Friday night.

"I missed baseball," the season ticket holder said after he was one of the first of the about 300 fans lined up outside Security Service Field for the home opener. "You sit there all winter watching football and twiddlin' your thumbs.

"I wanted a hot dog, beer and baseball."

He and most of the 7,562 fans enjoyed a thrilling end when Drew Garcia hit a three-run homer to lead Colorado Springs past the Round Rock Express, the Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers, 11-10 in the bottom of the 11th inning. The attendance was the third-highest opener at the ballpark and best since 1990 (8,913).

The Sky Sox (5-4) tied the game on a two-run homer by Tim Wheeler that knotted the score at 8-8 in the ninth off reliever Roman Mendez. Jared Hoying hit a two-run triple to put the Express (5-4) ahead 10-8 in the top of the 11th before Garcia's homer over the center field fence ended the game.

The Sky Sox tied the score on a two-run homer by Tim Wheeler that knotted the score at 8-8 off reliever Roman Mendez.

The home fans got a few thrills in the seventh inning too

Four doubles and two errors by the Express pushed five Sky Sox batters across to trim an 8-1 Round Rock lead to 8-6 against reliever Scott Richmond and Aaron Poreda, who was bailed out by a diving catch by left fielder Brett Lillibridge that ended the seventh.

The result only made Friday bigger for Leyba.

"A home opener should be a national holiday," he said. "It should be a holiday everywhere."

The longtime fan is hopeful the Sky Sox can put together a winning season in the Pacific Coast League.

"I am hopeful," he said. "I know there will be some familiar faces and some new ones as there are every year. I know I am going to enjoy it."

He wasn't the only one. Rylee Gonzales, 9, had his glove at the ready the moment he walked onto the ballpark concourse. The boy had a game ball tossed to him last season and was chosen to say "Play Ball!" that year as well.

"I love baseball," he said. "I play it every year."

Callie Krouse, who was first in line at the ballpark's north entrance, has made it to the Sky Sox home opener for 17 years in a row.

"It's awesome," she said. "I wouldn't miss it."

Her feeling was shared by many others.

Ticket taker Dick Wright loves his job. With the sun shining and the prospect of the baseball season ahead, the fans lining up were all smiles.

"They're excited to be here," he said. "Even when the weather is bad, they still smile. They love coming to the ballpark."

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