Championship teams don’t go down in history because players do what they’re supposed to do. They reach the summit because players step outside themselves and do more.
Andy Steinmetz did just that Sunday night, and as a result, the East Texas Pump Jacks are on the cusp of their first division title in team history.
Making his first start of the Pump Jacks’ season, Steinmetz pitched seven strong innings to notch his first victory this summer, a 6-3 triumph over the host Alexandria Aced. His start was backed up by MVP contender Lee Orr, who clobbered a home run and smacked a double, as well as timely hitting by the rest of the lineup.
Steinmetz had pitched well in 15 relief appearances, entering the game with a 3.18 ERA and 27 strikeouts against just seven walks. But this sort of success was unexpected, especially in his first start since anchoring the rotation this spring for head coach Ben Taylor’s Fighting Artichokes at Scottsdale Community College. Steinmetz faced the minimum three hitters in six of his seven frames, with the second inning being the only extended Aces hitting opportunity.
The Pump Jacks staked the Iowa native to a lead before he even took the mound. Orr crushed a 1-1 offering over the left field fence to lead off the game. Matt Carvutto followed with his 15th double of the season, and after he moved to third base on a wild pitch, Bryan Peters stroked a line drive through the left side for the 2-0 lead.
The Aces answered in the second and briefly took the lead. A pair of one-out bloop singles put runners on, and with two away Ryan Cummings’ soft drive down the right field line barely eluded a diving Orr. Two runs scored as Cummings streaked into third base. Manny Estrada followed with another soft safety to score Cummings, and the Aces led 3-2.
Zac Fisher and the Pump Jacks responded immediately. Fisher led off the third with a liner to left field, and he moved up a base on Peters’ second hit of the night. A Michael Haynes sacrifice bunt put Fisher on third, allowing him to score easily when Chase Graskewicz bounced out to second.
The bottom of the Jacks’ order came through in the fifth inning to put the team ahead for good. Haynes led off with a single, advanced on a Graskewicz sacrifice bunt, then stole third base. Jesse Santo drew a walk ahead of Brandon Wood, who promptly doubled to center. Haynes scored on the play, while the relay throw skipped past the Aces’ catcher. Santo tried to score as well, but the Alexandria reliever corralled the ball and made the tag at home. Wood, who had taken third on the play, scored on a wild pitch for a 5-3 Pump Jacks lead.
With a fragile two-run lead heading into the late innings, the Jacks received a bit of insurance from two of their offensive stars. Orr led off the eighth inning with his third hit of the game, a double. A wild pitch moved him to third base. Fisher followed with a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Orr for a three-run lead.
The final run was a league leader in two categories. It was the 33rd RBI of the season for Fisher as well as the 35th run scored by Orr, both tops in the TCL.
The offense was more than enough for Steinmetz, who allowed just two runners from the third through seventh innings. One was erased on a fifth-frame double play and the other was caught stealing in the seventh inning.
Steinmetz finished with five K’s, four of them looking, and five hits allowed while issuing just one walk to improve to 1-0.
The East Texas relief corps was perfect in two innings. Chase Adams picked up the eighth frame and Dusty Ross closed it out to tack #13 onto his league-record saves total.
The Pump Jacks pounded out 12 hits on the night, putting runners in scoring position in every inning but the ninth. Orr led the way by reaching base all five times at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a pair of walks. Peters and Haynes had two hits apiece.
The win maintains the Jacks’ first place standing in the second half of the season, one game ahead of the Victoria Generals. East Texas can clinch the title on the last game of the regular season with either a win over the McKinney Marshals or a Victoria loss at the hands of the Texas Tomcats.
The Pump Jacks have long since clinched their third straight playoff berth since joining the TCL in 2008. The benefit of the second-half title is home field advantage, bestowed upon both division champions for the first round. Home field is even more important for the Pump Jacks, who boast the league’s best record at home (21-6).
The playoffs get underway Tuesday, with a division winner taking on a wild card in each best-of-three series. The wild card teams will host Game One on Tuesday, with the division champs hosting Game Two on Wednesday. If a third game is necessary, the division winner will play host.
The two winners in the first round meet in the best-of-three TCL Championship Series beginning Friday, August 13.
The format ensures Pump Jacks fans will see at least one postseason game at historic Driller Park, as early as Tuesday. With home field advantage, the Jacks can host as many as four total playoff games.
Should the Pump Jacks hold on to capture the division title, they would open the playoffs on the road on Tuesday. The series would come home to historic Driller Park on Wednesday.
The first home playoff game will be celebrated as Pump Jacks Poster Giveaway Night presented by Good Shepherd Medical Center and CBS 19. The first 500 fans will receive a specially-designed poster featuring every player who suited up for the Jacks this summer. The keepsake poster is perfect for autographs, plus it makes a great way to remember this summer’s edition of the Pump Jacks.
But before the playoffs get under way, East Texas has one last regular season hurrah at Driller Park. Fan Appreciation Night presented by Kilgore Ford and Buddy’s Home Furnishings will take place Monday night, when the Jacks host the Marshals. The word of the day will be FREE, as in:
All tickets are subject to availability, so fans are urged to get your tickets early. Kilgore Ford has a limited number of vouchers, so don’t delay and visit Kilgore Ford soon!
Pump Jacks Nation is now on Facebook! Visit the East Texas Pump Jacks official team page on Facebook to follow all the news and gossip about the Pump Jacks, post your thoughts on the Jacks 2010 season, upload photos, and interact with other fans. Plus, the Jacks will post specials and discounts just for the Facebook community on the page! Click the link on the left side of the Pump Jacks web site or at the top of every news article on the site, and join Pump Jacks Nation on Facebook!
To follow all Pump Jacks news, including player awards, game stories and promotions, log on to the team’s official Website at www.pumpjacksbaseball.com.
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