Edwin Arroyo (center with helmet) returns to the dugout after hitting a home run in the sixth inning to give the Bee Jays their first lead of the game agains tthe Pueblo Collegians. The Bee Jays added to the lead and did not give up another run in a 10-5 season opening win at Brent Gould Field. L&T photo/Rustin Watt
By RUSTIN WATT
• Leader & Times
What looked to be a dogfight in the defending national champion Bee Jays opening day match-up with the Pueblo Collegians turned into a late inning blowout. Bee Jays returning standout Edwin Arroyo homered in the sixth to propel the Bee Jays to their first lead of the game en-route to a 10-5 win along with a 1-0 start to the title defenders’ season.
“Arroyo had a huge night,” Bee Jays head coach Mike Silva said. “It was a complete shift in momentum with one swing of the bat and we didn’t let up from there.”
With the Bee Jays down two runs early, 3-1, and knotted up at 5-5 through the top half of six, Arroyo stepped in to leadoff.
Arroyo turned the tables and put the momentum in the Bee Jays favor with one swing, taking the Collegians yard for a solo shot to put the Bee Jays up 6-5. Liberal shut out the Collegians the rest of the way, and moved to 1-0 to begin the season.
Pueblo struck first in the contest as they put a run across on a base hit just out of the reach of Liberal first basemen, Dean Friedberg, to take an early 1-0 lead.
A quick answer was made by Liberal when, third basemen Ryan Walker hit a liner to right-center field to record a tying RBI double to even it out at 1-1.
The Next Collegian runs came in the third crossing two via a Liberal throwing error to first.
Liberal came back in the bottom half of the fourth to again tie things up going into the top half of the fifth. Bee Jays starter on the hill, Michael McBride, began to show signs of fatigue as a Collegian home run over left field led off the inning.
Pueblo followed by loading the bases when head coach Mike Silva decided to make a change putting in Rusty Devitt, who was able to get out of the no-out-bases-loaded jam by forcing a ground-ball-double play turned at home by catcher Greg McCall, and retiring the next batter by throwing him a chair to leave Liberal down only two, 5-3.
The Bee Jays rebounded quickly in the fifth to again knot things up heading into the sixth when Liberal’s Arroyo changed the game with a swing of the bat, blasting a solo shot to give Liberal their first lead. From there they would stay on top.
“It felt good,” Arroyo said. “It’s been about 17 days since I’ve hit live pitching so it was nice to be able to provide a spark, and we just came out and competed and had fun.”
Devitt and the Bee Jays defense were able to shut out the Collegians the rest of the way.
The Bee Jays tacked on five more runs as the contest closed out with winds changing direction and a light but needed drizzle began to spatter Brent Gould Field.
The opening night win moves Liberal out to a 1-0 start despite only having half of the team’s roster currently back for the summer, 15 in all, eight of which are pitchers, meaning position players and pitchers alike played out of position to contribute to the win.
“I was a little worried through the first five,” Bee Jays manager Bob Carlisle said. “But we came through with the bats with 13 hits, and we got some great relief pitching in Rusty(Devitt). Despite not having our full contingent of players, it was exciting and rewarding to start the season off with a win.”
Liberal will match up with the Collegians tonight at Brent Gould Field at 7 p.m. with Robbie Ingram out of Yavapai, scheduled to take the hill and make the start. with the buyout sponsor, Brown’s Furniture, providing free entry and prizes between innings.
Bee Jay second baseman Toby Semler attempts to stop a ball Wednesday in the season opener against the Pueblo Collegians. Semler and the Bee Jays rallied from a 5-3 deficit to earn a 10-5 win. L&T photo/Rustin Watt