Big opening innings yield only mixed results

Every team in the system scored at least three runs in the first inning Thursday night, but only two of them could make the early thunder hold up for victories. Rafael Rodriguez matched his impressive first start for the Quakes, while Jered Wells looked human.

Bees Fall to Vegas 5-3
Salt Lake City jumped on major league veteran Aaron Sele for three runs in the first inning, but then the offense went silent, and Jered Weaver couldn't hold on to the early lead.

Weaver, who turned in one of the best starts of his professional career in his Triple-A debut in Tucson over the weekend, gave back the lead in the bottom of the second when, with two outs, he allowed three straight hits, capped off by a two-run homer by jouneyman infielder Wilson Valdez. He later gave up a solo shot to Willy Aybar. It was only the second time in 17 career starts Weaver allowed more than one home run.

With Erick Aybar getting a night off, Reggie Willits started in the leadoff spot and went 2-for-4, including a double to start the game, and a run scored. Willits hit first for the Travelers much of last season, but really took off at the end of the season when he moved to the two-hole, hitting .363 in that role.

Brian Specht started at shortstop and also went 2-for-4 on the night. The 25-year-old switch hitter who began his career at the position, has already appeared at four positions on the year for the Bees, including his first ever appearance in left field.

Travelers drop 7-6 decision to Wranglers
After taking the first two games of the series, Arkansas dropped the third of five straight match-ups with Wichita. The Wranglers used two big innings, keyed by aggressive base running, to claim their second victory of the year.

Matthew Brown extended his hitting streak to seven games with an RBI double as part of a three-run first inning for the Travelers, and Mike Eylward added two doubles for his fifth multi-hit game of the year, but the squad too often struggled with runners on, leaving nine men on the bases total.

Starting pitcher Steven Shell was tagged for six runs in 4.1 innings of work, but only two of those were earned. A Brandon Wood error and three stolen bases fueled the Wranglers' four-run first inning. The error was Wood's fourth in seven games on the year.

Wichita ran wild against Shell and catcher Brent Del Chiaro, who was making his second start of the year, stealing five without being caught.

Leftfielder David Gates accomplished an unusual feat in the sixth inning when two fielders committed an error on balls he hit, but he failed to reach base. On consecutive pop fouls, first baseman Kila Kaaihue and catcher Damaso Espino dropped what should have been outs. After getting two extra leases on life, however, Gates bounced out to third base.

Quakes pound Mavericks again, 10-1
For the second consecutive night, Rancho Cucamonga got both great hitting and stellar pitching to bomb High Desert and split a four-game series.

Rafael Rodriguez blanked the Mavs over six innings, allowing only five hits while striking out seven. The 21-year-old righty hasn't allowed a run in either of his first two starts of the season, after logging only one quality start in 14 games with the Quakes after a mid-season promotion last year. A product of the Dominican Republic, Rodriguez has allowed only one walk while striking out 14 in 12 innings of work to start this campaign.

Leftfielder Drew Toussaint hit a pair of homers on the night, his first two-homer game since last May when he was with Cedar Rapids. The solo shot in the fourth inning was his first round-tripper of the year.

The Quakes had a balanced attack from their offense. Matthew Pali was the only starter without a hit, but he still collected an RBI with a groundout in the fourth. The club continued its hot hitting with men in scoring position. Entering the night with a .339 average, the Quakes went 7-20 in such situations tonight.

Kernels use big first inning to down Wisconsin 7-2
Cedar Rapids needed only three hits to score five runs in the fifth inning Thursday night, and never looked back on their way to their third straight win.

Catcher Brett Martinez had a pair of hits and three RBI on the night. The 22-year-old catcher, who has spent most of the last two years in the Pioneer League, has five RBI in the last two nights, equaling his total from the first month of play last season.

Outfielder Warner Madrigal, back for his third season with the Kernels, added a pair of RBI as well, his first of the year.

Lefthander Kelly Shearer made his second start of the year on the mound, but couldn't make it through the fifth inning for the win. The Angels' 14th-round pick from 2003 surrendered two runs through four innings, but gave up five hits and four runs in the process.

Chris Howell earned his first professional victory in relief, giving up only two hits in three innings of work. He was helped out in dramatic fashion in the sixth inning when his defense turned a triple play.

With runners on first and second, Jeff Faig hit a liner which shortstop Henry Statia trapped. Amid confusion when the umpire hesitated on the call, Statia, tagged out the lead runner, then fed the ball to Ryan Leahy at second, who had time to complete the play with his relay to first. It was the fourth triple play ever turned by the Kernels.

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