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Going ‘Long’ - Robust crowd, including ‘Longmire’ stars, watches Robbers hit four home runs

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By Dave Kavanaugh

A near-capacity crowd at Saturday night’s Las Vegas Train Robbers game was treated to the sight of “Longmire” actor Lou Diamond Phillips hitting a single off series star Robert Taylor at Rodriguez Park.

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That turned out to be just a preview — or “trailer,” in cinematic jargon — of the hitting to come.

Several hundred fans in attendance watched as the home team clubbed out four home runs in a stirring 10-5 win over the Alpine (Texas) Cowboys.

“Everyone has the potential to hit the ball out of the park in our lineup,” said Las Vegas manager Casey Dill. “We’re a team built to score runs.”

Andrew Lopez connected on the first homer in the bottom of the second inning, a two-run bomb that instantly cut Alpine’s early 4-0 lead in half.

In the third inning, Las Vegas’ Randy Wells lofted a three-run homer over the fence, scoring Joey Haskell, Jon Hotta and himself to grab a 5-4 lead for the home side.

Following back-to-back singles by Adam Kam and Ryan Lauer, Ted LeMasters stroked the Robbers’ second three-run home run of the inning, making it an 8-4 tally.

Las Vegas loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth, setting up a score off Kam’s sacrifice fly.

The Cowboys got one run closer on Joel Carranza’s RBI single in the top of the fifth.

But the Train Robbers got that run back in effect when Matt Grosso roped a solo home run to right field with two out in the bottom of the sixth.

Ben Runyon successfully closed the game for Las Vegas, although the Cowboys made it interesting. After Runyon retired the first two batters in order, an erratic throw allowed Tyler Rost to reach. And Runyon walked Derrick Fox on the next at-bat. But Casanova Donaldson struck out to end the game.

Atsushi Hebisawa was solid in recording his fourth win as a starting pitcher for Las Vegas. After giving up six hits — including two doubles — in the first two frames, Hebisawa settled in and allowed just four hits through the next six innings. He finished with four strikeouts.

Counterpart Brad Orosey endured the loss for Alpine after the rough start. The Cowboy bullpen fared better, with relievers Derrick Mitchell and Matt Marra combining for three scoreless innings to end the game.

Haskell shined in his role as leadoff hitter for the Robbers, going 4 for 5 and scoring twice.

A couple of defensive sequences made notable cameos for Vegas. The Robbers executed a nifty double play in the opening inning to end an Alpine scoring threat. And in the eighth, Wells turned a groundout from his knees after Carranza had hit a chopper to second.

It was easily the biggest home crowd to date for the fledgling Train Robbers. Much of the surge in attendance was credited to the club’s “Longmire Night” promotion, which brought stars of the hit A&E television series to the ballpark.

Taylor, who stars as the titular Sheriff Walt Longmire, donned a Train Robbers jersey and threw out a ceremonial first pitch — or two.

The second of Taylor’s pitches went to Phillips, who wore an Alpine jersey and batting helmet as he ripped a hard single to center field, causing the crowd to go wild. Phillips had called his shot, Babe Ruth-style, before stepping to the plate.

Cassidy Freeman, who stars as Walt’s daughter Cady Longmire, was not to be outdone, singing the national anthem.

Set in Wyoming but filmed in northern New Mexico, “Longmire” has had a strong presence in Las Vegas since the pilot episode was shot here in 2011.

All three actors signed autographs and posed for photos with fans, and they lingered until the ninth inning. Most of the fans remained as well, with the on-field action keeping their attention.

If the celebrities’ presence may have been somewhat of a distraction early on, it certainly didn’t have an apparent impact on the hot Las Vegas bats, which generated their usual firepower — and arguably more, if one considers the extra-base hits.

“Tonight was our best night at Rodriguez Park,” Dill said. “I want to thank  everyone who came out and cheered for us.”

Las Vegas improved to 13-10 overall, two games behind Trinidad (14-8) atop the Pecos League’s North Division as of early Sunday. The Train Robbers lead Santa Fe by two games.

The Roswell Invaders continue to set the pace for the league at 19-6 and own a six-game cushion over Alpine within the South Division.

The top two teams from each division will make the postseason playoffs this summer, according to the league office.

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Las Vegas split Friday’s doubleheader with visiting Taos, winning the afternoon opener 13-7 before falling 7-5 in the nightcap.

The twinbill, which gave the teams a series split, was necessitated by a rainout of this past Wednesday’s game.

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Future games: Las Vegas will continue its series with Alpine through Tuesday, when the Train Robbers wrap up a 10-game homestand. Then it’s off to Trinidad, Colo., for games Wednesday and Thursday at the division-leading Triggers. Vegas hosts Trinidad on Friday and Saturday. Admission prices are $6 for adults.