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Ball bounces Aviators' way

#14  Sean cunningham of the Aviators at 2nd base during their game Friday evening.

June 26th, 2009
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY LISA JAMES #14 Sean cunningham of the Aviators at 2nd base during their game Friday evening. June 26th, 2009 Merced Sun-Star

ATWATER -- Kory Vitato is going to be a welcome addition to the Stanislaus State baseball team next season.

Friday evening at Memorial Ballpark, Vitato showed why.

The former Merced College standout put his wide skillset on display, turning an attempted sacrifice into a bunt single, drawing a bases loaded walk and ripping a run-scoring single down the third-base line.

The shortstop flashed a little leather as well, making a tremendous over-the-shoulder grab to help the Atwater Aviators cruise past the Los Angeles Thrashers 8-2.

"Rollo (Adams) and I were laughing before the game because I'd lined out hard in my last three at-bats," Vitato said. "He said things would even out and I'd get like a bunt single here and a broken-bat hit there.

"He said I was good for six hits before the weekend is through. So far, he's right on."

So was the entire Aviators offense.

Coming off a tough road trip, the return to Atwater has done the team wonders as the Aviators have run off five victories in a row and scored 16 runs in their last two games.

An improved approach at the plate has helped see to that.

Atwater worked Thrashers starting pitcher John Lamoore, forcing him to throw 75 pitches in just three innings.

Atwater drew nine walks in the game -- and when they did swing the bats -- happily took advantage of hitters' counts.

Nick Morreale got Atwater on the board with a run-scoring single in the third. Vitato and Anthony Potter followed with a bases loaded walks, and two batters later, second baseman Jack Alvord broke the game open with a two-run double.

"It took a little while for us to gel as a team, but our hitting is really starting to come around," Vitato said. "We layed off the pitcher's pitches and made him throw what we wanted."

The five-run third inning was all the support Atwater starter Troy Marks would need.

A leadoff single, stolen base and two ground outs helped L.A. touch Marks up for a run in the first.

The Thrashers threatened again in the second with consecutive singles to start the inning, but Marks danced his way out of the jam.

After that, he was almost untouchable.

Marks retired the last 11 batters that he faced in a row and finished with seven strikeouts.

"It's one of the things that we've noticed about Troy," Adams said. "It usually takes him a few pitches to get going. But once he does, he's pretty tough to hit."

The Aviators tacked on insurance runs in the fourth, seventh and eighth innings to leave little doubt.

Will Caudillo and Jerry Leonardo combined for four innings of one-run relief to close out the game.

"The guys are playing some pretty good ball right now," Adams said. "We're trying to get these college kids some playing time and still piece together some wins.

"It's a good way to open the weekend."

The Aviators keep the homestand going with a doubleheader (2 and 6 p.m.) against the Nor-Cal Longhorns today and finish up the series at noon on Sunday.


At Memorial Ballpark

Thrashers 100 000 010 -- 2 5 4

Aviators 005 100 11x -- 8 9 1

John Lamoore, Patick Jameson (4), Zac Ketcher (8) and Josh Rush. Troy Marks, Will Caudillo (6), Jerry Leonardo (8). WP -- Marks 1-0. LP -- Lamoore.

THRASHERS -- Mike Riva 2-4.

AVIATORS -- Phil Mannelly 3-5 (RBI), Ryan Lang 2-3, Kory Viatato 2-4 (2 RBI), Jack Alvord 2B (2 RBI).

Records: Aviators 11-6.