Sky Sox fall 9-2 to Zephyrs

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Sox struck first for the fourth consecutive contest before a seven-run New Orleans sixth helped the Zephyrs to a convincing 9-2 win before a Colorado Springs crowd of 5,826 at Security Service Field on Thursday night.

The Sky Sox scored the first run of the ballgame in the bottom of the second for the fourth straight night, taking the early 1-0 lead against New Orleans southpaw Adam Conley (6-2, 2.83). It was fellow starter Tyler Cravy that would draw first blood in the potential pitchers’ duel as the Sox righty scored Yadiel Rivera from third base on an RBI groundout.

Colorado Springs added another run in the next inning thanks to the hot-hitting combination of Matt Long and Robinzon Diaz. Long drilled a one-out double off of Conley before being driven home on a Diaz RBI single. The base-hit, Diaz’s second of the game at the time, gave the catcher eight hits over his last eleven at-bats and the home team a 2-0 lead after three.

Cravy (7-5, 3.65) cruised through the first four innings, keeping the Zephyrs scoreless while allowing just one hit and one walk in that time. He stumbled slightly in the top of the fifth, giving up a run on two straight hits and an RBI groundout by catcher Jesus Flores. With two out and a runner on third, New Orleans looked to tie the ballgame at two before Cravy’s lightning-quick reflexes were put on display. The Sox starter snagged a screaming liner just above his head to retire Zephyrs shortstop Miguel Rojas for the final out of the inning.

Unfortunately Cravy could not elude trouble in the sixth after the Sox went down quietly in the home half of the fifth. The reliable righty gave up three consecutive hits; the final being a two-run double off the bat of New Orleans’ newest addition: Kila Ka’aihue. The first baseman’s clutch knock chased Cravy from the ballgame and gave the Zephyrs a 3-2 lead. The visiting side would not look back as Ariel Pena struggled mightily in relief of Cravy. The right-hander allowed his lone inherited runner to score before three of his own crossed the plate in the eventual seven-run sixth. Rojas’ two-out, two-run triple served as the biggest blow to Pena’s line as he finished his night having given up four runs on three hits and a walk in just 0.2 of an inning pitched.

Cravy’s final line saw the Sox ace go five innings, allowing four runs on six hits and a walk while striking out six Zephyrs. With the unfortunate outcome, Cravy becomes the only Sox pitcher to have earned a decision in each of his 12 starts this season.

Sox manager Rick Sweet called upon former Brewers closer Jim Henderson to stop the bleeding in the sixth. Henderson would not get out of the inning before allowing another run to score on a Connor Gillespie RBI single. Ka’aihue flew out to end the big inning, bringing it full circle as the Zephyrs took their brand new 8-2 lead into the home seventh.

Conley finished his evening after five solid frames, allowing just two runs on six hits while striking out two and walking none before handing the ball over to the New Orleans bullpen. Three Zephyrs combined to keep the Sox scoreless over the game’s final four innings with lefties Pat Misch and Greg Nappo matched righty Lay Batista with a strikeout and walk each in their appearances.

Tim Dillard rounded out the Sox bullpen work, tossing two innings of one-run ball on two hits and a walk. The side-winding Dillard twirled a scoreless ninth to lead the Sox into the bottom of the ninth trailing 9-2.

Colorado Springs was able to load the bases against Batista, giving the home crowd hope of an interesting finish. The early-game hero in Robinzon Diaz came up in the two-out, bases loaded situation only to pop out meekly to Rojas at shortstop to end the long night. Thanks to the big seven-run sixth, New Orleans took game one of this four-game set by a 9-2 final to improve to 30-35 on the season while dropping the Sox to 26-39.

The seven-run frame marks only the second time that the Zephyrs have scored seven runs in an inning against the Sky Sox. The only other instance came on June 15th, 2002 at Security Service Field in game one of a doubleheader. In that game, New Orleans tallied eight runs in the top of the fourth inning as the Zephyrs won the 10-7 slugfest. For good measure, The Sky Sox ended up winning game two by a slim 7-6 margin.

Colorado Springs will look to break a two-game skid on Friday night in game two of this four-game set with the Zephyrs. New Orleans sends left-hander Justin Nicolino (4-3, 2.87) to the mound against Sox righty Tyler Thornburg (1-3, 5.40) with first pitch set for 7:05 PM MDT at Security Service Field.

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