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Aviators' Stormtrooper

SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK
Aviators #2 Ryan Laing scores a run as Lodi's catcher #Drew Oldfield waits for the ball during their game in Atwater, Calif. Tuesday, July 28, 2009.
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK Aviators #2 Ryan Laing scores a run as Lodi's catcher #Drew Oldfield waits for the ball during their game in Atwater, Calif. Tuesday, July 28, 2009. Merced Sun-Star

ATWATER -- Rollo Adams described Storm Chandler's approach to baseball as ugly but effective.

Tuesday night at Memorial Ballpark, the entire Atwater Aviators team appeared to adopt that mantra.

Starter Robert Alcala was effectively wild and the Aviators' bats struggled to produce when opportunities presented themselves.

Despite the rest of the team's inconsistencies, Chandler delivered when called upon.

The Atwater second baseman gave the Aviators an early lead with a two-run single and scored the game-winning run after sparking a two-out rally in the eighth.

Sean Fasig managed to hold down the fort from there and the Aviators won their 30th game of the season, 6-4, over the Lodi Baseball Club.

"I don't try to do too much when I go up there," Chandler said. "I'm pretty much just trying to get on base anyway I can."

That approach served him well on Tuesday.

With two outs in the eighth inning, Chandler pulled a single just inbetween first and second.

Atwater loaded the bases for center fielder Daniel Moultrie with an error and a walk.

"I was having a rough night at the plate, so I wasn't trying to do anything fancy," Moultrie said. "I just wanted to get the run home anyway I could."

Moultrie chopped a ball deep into the hole at short. Lodi's Stephen Malcolm fielded the ball cleanly, but Moultrie beat the long throw to first.

To add insult to injury, first baseman Brock Neil couldn't dig Malcolm's throw out of the dirt, allowing Cameron Graham to score from second and give the Aviators a 6-4 lead.

After helping Alcala out of a jam in the eighth, Sean Fasig successfully navigated his own trouble in the ninth to earn the win.

"It's the kind of night where you're grateful to get a no decision," Alcala said with a chuckle. "I didn't have great command tonight, but I was able to work around it."

Alcala's biggest trouble came in the second inning when he drilled Lodi's Eric Kozel in the head with a fastball to open the inning.

Kozel left the game for precautionary reasons and the violence of the play seemed to rattle Alcala.

Lodi happily took advantage, pushing across three runs on four hits.

"I think that play shook (Alcala) up a bit," Aviators coach Rollo Adams said. "Fortunately, he was able to settle down and keep us in the game.

"He didn't have his best stuff, but he gave us a chance to win."

A chat with the Lodi coach left Alcala feeling better and he limited Lodi to just one run the rest of the way.

The former Hilmar star tossed 123 pitches and struck out eight in 7 2/3 innings.

With Lodi held in check, the Aviators' offense finally got going in the fourth inning.

Lodi starter Thomas Berolzheimer had faced just 10 batters through the first three innings, but the second time through the Atwater order proved much trickier.

The Aviators wasted little time taking back the lead, opening the fourth inning with five straight base hits.

Jared Thompson drove a two-run single to right to get Atwater on the board. Two batters later, Chandler put Atwater on top with a two-run single of his own.

Matt Fuson doubled in a run for Lodi in the sixth to tie the game at 4-4.

"It's the first year of this club, so we didn't really know what to expect coming in," Chandler said. "It's a bunch of good guys and we've started playing some really good ball.

"At the start of the year, I'd have said no way we get 30 wins. It shows how far we've come."

Sean Lynch is a Sun-Star sports writer. He can be reached at 385-2476 or via e-mail at slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

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