Around 8 o’clock Friday night, rain soaked the Las Vegas Train Robbers and their guests.
Around 9 o’clock, it was celebratory champagne that rained down.
The first-year Pecos League baseball team came one step closer to realizing its season-long dream, outlasting Raton 8-6 at Rodriguez Park to clinch first place in the North Division.
Adam Kam and Will Walsh connected on three hits apiece, and Dillon Usiak tallied a team-high three runs batted in.
Greg Fowler struck out a season-high 10 batters and gave up just two earned runs on five hits and three walks. When he left after a half-hour weather delay six innings deep into the contest, the Robbers led 5-4.
After spotting the Osos a 2-0 head start in the first inning, Fowler was efficient the next four frames, retiring them in order three times. In the top of the fourth, he executed a brilliant almost-no-look pickoff of Shane Casey at first base.
In the bottom of the fourth, Las Vegas tallied three runs, starting with an RBI double by Usiak, continuing with Ryan Lauer’s sacrifice bunt to score Kam, and finishing with Joey Haskell’s single to get Usiak home.
Kam roped a two-run single to score Walsh and Randy Wells in the bottom of the fifth for a 5-2 Robbers lead.
As raindrops began to splash the ballpark, Fowler struck out the first two Osos he faced in the sixth. But he walked the next two, and Casey drove in Matt Lynch. The Osos loaded the bases on Fowler but only managed one more run before the former New Mexico Highlands hurler recorded his third strikeout of the inning to preserve the 5-4 lead for Las Vegas.
Heavy rain began to pour from the Meadow City skies, and after an ominous lightning bolt was spotted on the horizon, officials ordered both teams off the field.
Middle reliever Jimmy Jensen pitched a shutout seventh, and Usiak delivered a couple of insurance runs with a base hit in the bottom half of the frame. A Lauer groundout got Usiak across, and the Robbers led 8-4.
Raton managed two runs in the eighth but got no more.
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Edison Alvarez isn’t a fan of the designated hitter in Major League Baseball’s American League.
As well as he hits, it’s little wonder.
The Train Robbers ace was his own best friend Thursday night, leading his team at the plate as well as on the mound in a 6-1 win over the visiting Taos Blizzard. He hit 3 for 3 with three runs batted in and one scored. As the starting pitcher, he went the full seven innings and allowed just one run on five hits and a walk, striking out six.
Joey Haskell and Gary Stauff added two hits apiece to help the Robbers down Taos in the teams’ series finale at Rodriguez Park.
Taos’ lone run was the first one scored by either side. Grant Glasser made it home from third courtesy of an error after Taylor Oldham put the ball in play and reached first.
Las Vegas countered with two runs in the bottom of the fourth. Adam Kam scored off a Chris Wilson single, and then Haskell drove in Wilson.
With Alvarez doing some of his best pitching of the summer, the Blizzard offense struggled over the remaining innings, and Vegas retained a 2-1 edge.
Alvarez roped a three-run triple in the sixth to score Haskell, Stauff and Randy Wells. And the tall Dominican Republic native made it home himself on the next sequence as Will Walsh singled for an RBI.
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Late Wednesday, Las Vegas beat Taos 6-4, scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the seventh and adding an insurance score in the eighth.
Walsh went 2 for 4 with a home run and a walk, aiding Eddie Medina in collecting a pitching victory.
Medina struck out eight and allowed four runs — two of them earned — on six hits and three walks in seven frames.
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After wrapping up a four-game home-and-home series with the Raton Osos (concluding Monday night in Raton), the Train Robbers host the Santa Fe Fuego on Tuesday, then finish the regular season Wednesday in Santa Fe. Las Vegas, having clinched the No. 1 seed in the North Division, will host a first-round Pecos League playoff series Thursday through Saturday, July 25-27. The opponent will be either the Fuego or the Trinidad Triggers, depending on record at season’s end. Trinidad was leading the chase by a couple of games as of Saturday.
On the other half of the bracket, the South Division champ Roswell Invaders made league history by eclipsing the Alpine Cowboys’ 2012 mark for most wins in a regular season. Alpine won 45 last year as it made a successful run at the championship. Roswell broke that record Wednesday with nine games left.
In 2012, Casey Dill — now the Train Robbers’ skipper — led the now-defunct Las Cruces Vaqueros to the league championship series, ultimately won by Alpine.