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April 3, 1997

Eagles hoping rested arms

can earn victory in Big Spring

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PECOS, Apr. 3 -- Big Spring Steers' coach Bobby Doe tried to use pitcher
Blake Hull this week the same way he used pitcher Zac Leslie last year.
And it would have worked, if Hull had gotten some support from his

Pecos Eagles' coach Bubba Williams, meanwhile, doesn't plan to use
pitcher Jason Abila the same way Doe used Hull -- or the way Williams
had to use Abila a year ago in Big Spring -- when the Eagles return
there Friday for a 4 p.m. game.

Both teams are 1-2 in District 4-4A play -- the Eagles because they had
to forfeit a March 25 win over Sweetwater. Pecos comes off an 11-1 win
Tuesday over San Angelo Lake View, in which Abila tossed a six-hitter.

Last season, Abila had two-hit Fort Stockton on a Tuesday when Williams
brought him in to pitch against Big Spring, after the Steers' first
three hitters reached base. He was able to hold Big Spring in check
until the seventh, then needed relief help from Moses Martinez, who got
the final three outs to preserve a 7-6 victory. It allowed Pecos to
sweep the season series from Big Spring after eight straight district

On Friday Williams said Martinez, 4-2, would get the start against the
Steers. "Jason pitched a good game (Tuesday), but as hard as he throws,
he can't come back and pitch all the time. Moses is going to have to get
on the mound and throw well, and Richard (Gutierrez) is going to have to

Martinez has struggled with his control early in his last two starts.
He came back to beat Lamesa, 9-2, but five walks in the first two
innings at Andrews a week ago helped the Mustangs score five unearned
runs in an 8-2 victory.

The Eagles were two-hit that night, but cranked out 11 hits against
Lake View's Sterlin Gilbert, who had beaten Big Spring, 9-2, a week

After that loss Doe went the distance with Hull two straight games. The
senior had beaten Sweetwater, 6-5, five days earlier, and gave up only
six hits on Tuesday at Fort Stockton. But the Panthers' Steven Cordero
allowed the Steers just four, and Fort Stockton used a sixth inning run
to defeat Big Spring, 1-0.

Doe was able to use Leslie to carry the Steers to their sixth straight
playoff appearance last season, but with Big Spring due to face Andrews
after the Eagles, Hull figures to get a little rest on Friday.

Pecos will likely see either senior Danny Wilson or junior Jeff Denton
starting on the mound. Wilson was the loser in Big Spring's 9-2 district
opener agianst Lake View, while Denton has been used mostly in relief so
far this season.

Baseballs go Astros' way in

second win over Braves

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HOUSTON, Apr. 3 (AP) -- ``Almost'' was a big word for the Atlanta Braves
after opening their season 0-2 for the first time since 1991.

Kenny Lofton almost caught a fly ball that would have prevented
Houston's four-run third inning, and Ryan Klesko almost caught Derek
Bell's two-run double moments later that sparked the Houston Astros to a
4-3 victory Wednesday night.

``I thought we played pretty well,'' Braves manager Bobby Cox said. ``It
was one of those games where a few inches the other way and it's a
different ball game.''

Instead, the Astros beat Cy Young Award winners John Smoltz and Greg
Maddux on successive nights as the Braves played well enough to win, but
still found themselves winless this season.

With two outs in the third, Pat Listach singled. Lofton made a valiant
effort to catch the liner that flicked off his glove, allowing the first
of four runs to score.

Jeff Bagwell singled and then Bell hit a two-run double that glanced off
Klesko's glove after he made a dash to his right and crashed into a
retaining fence.

``It seemed like everything went in for them,'' shortstop Jeff Blauser
said. ``There were so many close plays, and most of them went their way.
But with the veterans on this team, we're not worried about losing two
games. We know it's a long season, and losing games like this is a part
of it.''

The Braves' bad luck extended into the ninth inning when they pulled
within a run on Blauser's RBI double off John Hudek. Blauser took third
on Keith Lockhart's groundout, Billy Wagner relieved and Lofton lined
into a game-ending double play.

Third baseman Bill Spiers caught the ball, then stepped on the base to
double up Blauser and give Wagner his second save.

``You've got to be lucky to beat the Braves,'' Astros first-year manager
Larry Dierker said. ``They are so hard to play. The tighter the game,
the harder, the better they play.''

Maddux gave up six hits in the third, including five in a row. He
allowed 10 hits in six innings, struck out four and walked one.

``They found holes,'' Maddux said. ``It's not like they were hitting a
lot of line drives. Sometimes the ball just bounces that way.''

Blauser knew it was over when Lofton's drive passed him.

``Once I saw it go by me on a line, my first thought was to try to get
back to the bag, because I knew it wasn't going to bounce,'' Blauser
said. ``It was hit too hard. That was absolutely the worst-case scenario
in that situation for us. He (Spiers) was moving that way when the ball
was hit, so there wasn't much I could do.''

The Astros beat the Braves 2-1 in Tuesday night's opener on an
outstanding performance by Shane Reynolds.

``I knew I could get a good breaking ball if I kept my hands back and I
hit it well enough,'' Bell said. ``He almost made a great catch, but
fortunately it came off his glove.''

Atlanta took the lead in the second when Blauser doubled, Maddux
sacrificed and Lofton hit an RBI grounder to shortstop that Listach
bobbled for an error. Javier Lopez hit a run-scoring single in the sixth
following Fred McGriff's single and Andruw Jones' double.

Astros left-hander Mike Hampton returned to the rotation after offseason
arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder. Hampton allowed six hits
in seven innings.

Notes: Despite his big hit, Bell is still hitting just .211 lifetime
(8-for-38) against Maddux. ... Astros third baseman Sean Berry, who has
the best career average among the Astros (.370) against Maddux, sat out
the game with a groin injury. ``If we'd been playing in the World
Series, Sean would have played, but we didn't want to take a chance,''
Dierker said. ... Maddux's last complete game was last Sept. 18, a 6-2
victory over the Astros.

(Copyright 1997 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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State and Regional Sports Pages--San Angelo Standard-Times

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