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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Thursday, May 20, 1999

Rangers' lefties to test Eagles

Staff Writer
PECOS, May 20 -- As good as the Pecos Eagles' lefthanders were in their two game sweep of the Plainview Bulldogs, the El Paso Riverside Rangers can argue theirs were better against the Canyon Randall Raiders.

Pecos' pitchers held Plainview to six hits and five runs over 14 innings this past weekend while winning a pair of area round games over the Bulldogs by 10-4 and 2-1 final scores. But the Bulldogs only finished third in District 4-4A this season -- Randall won the district title, and Riverside's pitchers held the Raiders to just three runs on 10 hits in sweeping their series by 6-3 and 3-0 scores.

That means Pecos' hitters may have their work cut out for their starting Friday afternoon, when the teams play the first game of their best-of-three Region I-4A quarterfinal series at Kokernot Field in Alpine.

Game 2 will be at 12 noon on Saturday with a third game, if needed, starting at about 2:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the regional semifinals against either Weatherford or Wichita Falls Rider.

Pecos got a four-hitter from Josh Casillas in their opening win over the Bulldogs, and the Eagles collected 12 hits, including home runs by Casillas and Jeff Martinez. But in the second game Pecos had to scratch out a pair of runs in the middle innings off Brennan Bell, then get late inning relief help from Pifi Montoya to preserve the victory. Montoya retired all seven batters he faced, five by strikeout, to preserve the win for Oscar Rodriguez, who allowed just two hits but walked seven in 4 innings of work.

Eagles' coach Bubba Williams said while Casillas allowed just four hits, it wasn't the junior's best performance.

"Josh pitched all right, but it wasn't Josh on the mound, the way he can pitch," said Williams of Casillas, who raised his record to 10-1 while striking out six and allowing four walks. He's scheduled to start Game 1 on Friday.

Riverside coach Jimmy Melendez only had to use two pitchers in his team's sweep of Randall, and both won with little margin for error.

Omar Ferniza (5-2) had 10 strikeouts but trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the sixth inning in Game 1 when the Rangers used four walks, a hit batter and a throwing error to score five times to earn the victory. In Game 2, Riverside pitcher Beto Romo was locked in a scoreless duel with Brandon Knapp until two outs in the top of the seventh, when the Rangers scored three times. Romo ended up with a two-hitter in handing Randall its first shutout of the season.

Robert Hood had the big hit, an RBI single after Romo doubled to open the inning. Abe Martinez then doubled Hood home and scored on Fabien Hernandez' single, as Riverside improved their record to 21-8 overall.

Romo had two hits the game while Martinez also added a double in the Rangers' 6-3 victory.

"They're supposed to have a couple of real good pitchers, and they're a contract hitting team," Williams said Monday of the Rangers, who started the season with a 4-1 win over El Paso Socorro, the team that swept Midland High out of the Class 5A playoffs this past weekend.

Like Pecos, Riverside went into an early March slide, going 5-6 in the weeks before District 1-4A play began. But the Rangers have gone 14-2 since then, losing only twice to El Paso Ysleta's Jacob Hernandez, and outscoring Fabens 29-3 in their bi-district series sweep on May 7-8.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have won 15 in a row, after a 12-0 loss to Colorado City on March 20 left them with a 7-5-1 season record. Pecos was actually outscored in their first 13 games, 106 runs to 104, but during their current streak the Eagles have scored 168 runs while allowing just 32, and have only surrendered 13 unearned runs, after giving up 63 in their first 13 games.

"We made errors, but we made the big plays when we needed them," Williams said after Saturday's 2-1 win, one of just two games the Eagles have won by three runs or less in their current streak.
The other was a 2-0 shutout win by Casillas at Clint on April 24 that clinched the Eagles' first district title since 1987, when the shared the then-District 2-4A championship with Andrews.

Andrews won its playoff series openers over Fort Worth Brewer by 7-1 and 17-13 scores and faces Denton Ryan in their regional quarterfinal game. The winner there will face either Pampa or Lubbock Estacado in the other regional semifinals, with the I-4A title games set for the weekend on June 4-5.

Duncan's late play gets Spurs past Lakers

AP Sports Writer
SAN ANTONIO -- After a poor second half, Tim Duncan was seeking redemption.

He found it on a pass from Mario Elie.

With San Antonio trailing 76-75, Duncan scored on a jump hook over the Lakers' J.R. Reid to give the Spurs the lead with 8.4 seconds left. San Antonio went on to defeat Los Angeles 79-76 Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference semifinal series.

``I wanted the ball, but the play wasn't exactly called for me. It was a team play,'' Duncan said. ``I wanted to take the shot from the get-go.''

``I wanted to redeem myself,'' added Duncan, who scored only six points in the second half before making the go-ahead basket.

Duncan led the Spurs with 21 points and eight rebounds.

Game 3 in the best-of-7 series is Saturday at the Great Western Forum.

In the East, Indiana held off Philadelphia 85-82 for a 2-0 lead in their series.

The New York-Atlanta and Portland-Utah series resume tonight with the Knicks and Jazz leading 1-0.

The Spurs again slowed down Shaquille O'Neal with double-teaming and an assortment of players guarding him, but Kobe Bryant almost orchestrated a Los Angeles victory.

Bryant, who led the Lakers in scoring with 28 points, made a tough 3-pointer with 37 seconds left as the shot clock expired to give them the 76-75 lead. But he missed two foul shots with 18 seconds left that could have given the Lakers a three-point advantage.

``I missed them because my release was horrible,'' Bryant said. ``I think the last time that happened I was in the eighth grade.''

The Lakers had two more chances to score, but couldn't convert.

``We got some good shots,'' Lakers coach Kurt Rambis said. ``I thought as a whole we did a lot more good things than bad.''

O'Neal scored 16 points for the Lakers -- well below his 28-point playoff average going into the game -- and shot 2-for-10 from the foul line.

``We had it and we fell again,'' O'Neal said. ``We just have to go home and try to win two to even up this series.''

O'Neal, who complained about the officiating after Game 1 when he went to the foul line 14 times, shot four less this time.

His complaints were milder Wednesday night.

``I was in foul trouble with some questionable calls,'' O'Neal said. ``I don't want to talk about that.''

Earlier Wednesday, the NBA fined O'Neal $7,500 for failing to leave the court in a timely fashion and verbally abusing officials after the Lakers' loss in Game 1. O'Neal ran after referee Steve Javie after that game, but Rambis kept him from getting too close.

Pacers 85, 76ers 82

At Indianapolis, another final-minute rally by Philadelphia fell short.

After Derrick McKey made one of two free throws, Indiana was called for goaltending on Matt Geiger's shot to make it 84-82 with 12 seconds to go.

With a chance to restore the lead to four, Jalen Rose missed the first and then made the second of two free throws to give the Sixers one last chance.

Out of timeouts and inbounding under their own basket, the Sixers got the ball into Allen Iverson's hands over midcourt, but he passed to Larry Hughes and the rookie's jumper was long. Geiger tipped the ball back out, and all Iverson could do was manage an awkward, off-target attempt as the buzzer sounded.

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