McAnulty the difference; Fort Wayne ousted

There was no greater addition to a roster than Paul McAnulty joining the Mobile BayBears. His presence has already made a difference as Mobile went up 2-0 on Thursday. Portland got back Dennis Tankersley from San Diego but he wasn't sharp and the come back to Portland knotted at 1-1 with Sacramento. Fort Wayne was eliminated from the Midwest League playoffs on Thursday as they again failed to capitalize on runners in scoring position.

Portland lost 7-3

Joe Blanton, a first-round pick (24th overall) of the Oakland Athletics in 2002, allowed three base runners in the first inning and gave up a leadoff single in the second before retiring 17 of the next 18 batters he faced, including 12 straight after Humberto Quintero's leadoff double in the fourth. Pitching on eight days rest, Blanton (1-0) struck out nine and held the Beavers scoreless until the eighth when they scored three runs, though only one of was earned. He also picked off Freddy Guzman in the first inning.

Koonce had a big two-run single in the three-run third inning and added a two-run homer off reliever Brad Baker in the seventh. Matt Watson was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored and Mike Rose was 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI for the River Cats, who handed the Beavers their first road defeat in 10 tries dating back to Aug. 26.

Dennis Tankersley, made his first start with the Beavers since returning from San Diego on Tuesday. In the first, Tankersley hit John Baker with an 0-2 pitch, and Dan Johnson and Mike Edwards hit consecutive singles for the River Cats' first run.

Back-to-back, one-out walks to Baker and Johnson hurt Tankersley in the third. Watson's two-out single over the head of second baseman Ben Risinger plated Baker and Tankersley issued his third walk of the inning to load the bases for Koonce, who laced a two-run single to left to up the lead to 4-0.

Sacramento (1-1) scored an unearned run in the fifth, following errors on consecutive plays to start the inning by shortstop J.J. Furmaniak and left fielder Jon Knott. Furmaniak misplayed Edwards' routine grounder and Knott did well to track down Watson's deep fly before dropping the ball. Mike Rouse cashed in with an RBI single to right, but that's where it stopped. The River Cats appeared to push across another run when Watson raced home from third on Nelson Cruz' fly out to right, but Watson left third too early and was ruled out to end the inning.

Koonce's two-run shot made it 7-0 in the seventh before the Beavers were finally able to get on the board in the top of the eighth. Jake Gautreau doubled to start the inning, Alex Fernandez singled to center and Freddy Guzman placed a double into left to plate Gautreau with one out. Blanton left at that point to a standing ovation from the 8,682 in attendance. With runners on second and third, Edwards' error on a ball hit to third base by Quintero got through his legs for a two-run error that cut the Beavers' deficit to 7-3.

Tankersley gave up five runs (four earned) on seven hits in 4.0 innings in his return to the Portland rotation.

Mobile won 3-2

Paul McAnulty collected three hits including a home run as the Mobile BayBears defeated the Birmingham Barons 3-2 on Thursday night in game two of the Southern League Western Division playoffs. The BayBears now lead the best-of-five series two games to none as the series moves to Birmingham.

BayBears starting pitcher Roger Deago and Birmingham starter Eduardo Villacis locked in a pitchers duel in the early innings. McAnulty belted a lead-off home run in the sixth inning to give the BayBears a 1-0 lead.

Birmingham came back to tie the game in the seventh on a two-out RBI double by Pedro Lopez.

Kennard Jones led off the Mobile half of the seventh with a single to center and went to second on Jason Clements sacrifice. Ronnie Merrill was walked intentionally to put men at first and second. McAnulty grounded a hit to right to drive in Jones and give Mobile a 2-1 lead. Ben Johnson grounded to third as Merrill was thrown out at the plate, but Rico Washington followed with a line drive hit to left to bring in McAnulty and give Mobile a 3-1 lead.

Reliever Dale Thayer pitched a scoreless eighth inning for Mobile. R.D. Spiehs allowed a one-out solo homer in the ninth to Michael Spidale but got the next two hitters to earn his second save in as many nights.

Fort Wayne lost 5-2

On Thursday night, the Wizards again stranded a ton of baserunners and just couldn't get the hit needed to get into the game. South Bend took the lead in the second, but Sean Thompson avoided further damage by pitching out of a bases loaded situation. The Wizards then tied the game in the third, but South Bend came right back with a run to tie the game. The Wizards eventually fell behind 4-1 before scoring in the 8th inning and having runners at 1st and 3rd with just one out, but failed to score again. South Bend then tacked on a run in the bottom of the 8th, matching the run the Wizards scored in their half of the 8th. It was 5-2 into the 9th, and in their final at bat of the 2004 season the Wizards went in order.

The Wizards fall in the series 2-0. The Wizards finished 2004 with a 72-68 record despite using 55 players and have one losing streak of nine games and another one of eight games. They finished the season winning 15 or 20 games just to make the playoffs. The Wizards drew over 278,000 fans to the ballpark, the second highest in franchise history. The Wizards averaged over 4,000 fans per game for just the second time in their history. The Wizards will begin 2005 at home, but the exact date and team aren't known at this time.

(Portland Beavers, Mobile BayBears, and Fort Wayne Wizards staff compiled this report)

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