Josephang Bernhardt saw the white pentagon plate 90 feet away, almost begging to be touched. The Queens Kings' designated hitter then made a blunder that comes with learning the intricacies of minor league baseball.
With the Kings down a run in the bottom of the ninth, Bernhardt got a little too aggressive on a Shawn Pearson squibber to short. Bernhardt tried to score from second, but got caught in a rundown between third and home. The resulting out was Queens' final one, as it lost to the Utica Blue Sox, 3-2, in front of 662 at The Ballpark at St. John's University.
With the tying run at second, Pearson, Queens' leading hitter with a .369 average, hit a dribbler to Utica shortstop Josh Wilson. Wilson bobbled the ball and threw late to first. Utica first baseman Matt Postell quickly ran at Bernhardt and the run down commenced.
"We try to make our runners aggressive. We try to get our young guys to hustle and run the bases hard," said Queens interm manager Pat Kelly, who stepped in for regular manager Eddie Rodriguez, who was in Atlanta for the All-Star Game festivities. "Unfortunately, it comes back to get you on that play. I'd much rather do something aggressively than to sit there. There are two outs in the bottom of the night, we got to do something."
Up until the forgettable play, the game was a flawless pitcher's duel. Although helped by home plate umpire Jeff Spisak's wide strike zone, both Utica's Ramon Castillo and Queens' Diegomar Markwell worked strong games. Markwell gave up three runs-all earned-in five innings, fanning four batters. The lefty's only rough inning was the fourth. He started the top half of the inning strong, striking out James Close, but followed with two singles and a towering double off the left field wall by Utica's Scott Hicks. The shot drove in two, giving Utica (8-11) a 2-0 lead.
"I don't think he had good rhythm all day," Kelly said. "I thought he did a nice job of battling without his best stuff. Other than giving up that two-out, two-run double to the left-handed hitter, he was fine."
The only runs that Queens (10-9) could scratch off Castillo came in the bottom of the fourth. With Mike Snyder standing on first after a walk, Guillermo Quiroz drove a 3-2 pitch over the left field wall to tie the score at two.
Utica picked up the winning run on a fielder's choice in the fifth inning. The game went scoreless after that, with each teams' bullpen holding strong until the final out. Unfortunately for the Kings, how the final out could have been avoided.
"It's disappointing," said Pearson, who went 3-for-4. "We gave ourselves a chance to win. That's what we need to do every single day, give ourselves a chance to win. In the bottom of the ninth there, that's what we did."
©2000 Community News Group
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