By Lethbridge Herald on June 15, 2015.
Well, that takes care of the hitting problem.
The Lethbridge Bulls beat the Edmonton Prospects 9-0 at Spitz Stadium Sunday afternoon, less than a day after getting shut out in 12 innings by those same Prospects.
The Bulls’ bats established themselves early, as the top of the order did what tops of the order are supposed to do. The first three batters — Cody Stewart, Trace Hansen and Brandon Bufton — singled, with speed merchant Stewart racing home. Then, cleanup hitter Travis Steinke dusted the bases with a three-run home run and a 4-0 Bulls lead.
Starting pitcher Luc Hebert didn’t need all four of those runs in his seven innings, but they were appreciated nonetheless.
“Definitely, it’s better pitching with a lead, you do relax, although mentally you should always think it’s 0-0,” said Hebert. “But at the same time, you don’t worry as much knowing the guys have already done their part.”
Hebert said the run support boosts everyone’s morale, defensively and on the mound. It was certainly reflected in Hebert’s outing, as he went seven innings, allowing seven hits, no runs and giving up just two free bases (one walk, one wild pitch).
The Bulls pitching has been solid all season but their hitting has been, well, hit or miss. Even on Sunday, eight of the nine runs came in two innings. The team did double its season home run total by the end of the game.
Lethbridge popped another four runs on the scoreboard in the fourth inning, loading the bases for Bufton, who hit a grand slam to make it 8-0.
“That’s my first grand slam ever,” said a beaming Bufton after the game. He’s hit in the last 11 games he has appeared in, although he missed Saturday’s 2-0 extra-innings loss to the Prospects. Bulls head coach Ryan MacDonald said Bufton was “puking his guts out” and couldn’t play. He bounced back admirably.
“We don’t hit a lot of home runs, not a lot of that in our lineup, but definitely Steinke and Buff are two guys we know can do that,” he said. “Buff’s a big part of what we do, we need him firing on all cylinders so hopefully this is a start of big things the rest of the way.”
Bufton finished 2-for-5 with two runs, five RBIs — and three strikeouts.
The Bulls racked up 13 hits in the game. Stewart had three, with three runs scored. Hansen, Bufton, Steinke and Ryan Pidhaichuk each had two hits.
“We want them swinging and sometimes that’s going to mean you don’t score some innings but in the end I think our guys are good enough that if a pitch is there and they know they can hit it, I want them knowing they should swing at it,” said MacDonald.
“I don’t want them taking pitches they could hit.”
Lethbridge is 10-4, two games ahead of Edmonton (6-4) in the Alberta Division. Medicine Hat is 6-6 and the Okotoks Dawgs are 5-8. Weyburn Beavers lead the Saskatchewan Division at 9-3.
The Bulls also finalized their roster with the arrival of slugger Josh Day, who strolled into the dugout in civilian clothes mid-game. Bulls’ staffer Glenda Kurtz dropped the West Texas A&M Buffalo off with “Guys, this is Josh Day,” and two innings later he was at the plate — although Bulls general manager Kevin Kvame said he was pretty sure Day was wearing someone else’s cleats.
Day started the day in Arizona with a stop in Utah before the final flight and drive to Spitz Stadium.
The Bulls will spend most of the week in Saskatchewan, with games in Yorkton and Melville beginning Tuesday. The team’s next home game is June 26 against the Medicine Hat Mavericks.
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