By HERB SWETT
For the Keizertimes
A walk-off 13th-inning single by Stephen Branca scored Trevor Brown on Saturday to end the Volcanoes’ season with a 7-6 win over the visiting Tri-City Dust Devils and a .500 record for the second half.
The overall 2012 record put Salem-Keizer at the bottom of the West Division of the Northwest League at 32-44, but it was not the worst record in the league. The Spokane Indians, in the cellar of the East Division, had a poorer record. For the second half, the Volcanoes were third in their division at 19-19.
Joan Gregorio, the Volcanoes’ starting pitcher, had eight strikeouts in his four innings but gave up four runs on eight hits and two bases on balls and left the game with the Dust-Devils ahead 4-1. In the first inning, Francisco Sosa doubled to left center field to drive in Rosell Herrera and Matt Argyropoulos. In the second, a single by Dillon Thomas scored Anthony Aguilera and Yafistel Roja.
The Volcanoes’ first run came in the second. Mac Williamson singled to center, went to second base on a single by Branca and reached third when Rafael Rodriguez hit into a double play. A wild pitch by Tri-City’s starter, Taylor Reid, allowed him to score.
The score remained 4-1 until the bottom of the sixth, when the Volcanoes scored five runs. Brennan Metzger led off with a walk and went to third on a single to left by Brown. Mitch Delfino singled to right, sending Metzger home and Brown to third. Mike Mergenthaler, pinch hitting for Williamson, drove in Brown with a single to center. An error by center fielder Sosa moved Delfino to third and Mergenthaler to second. Branca walked. Rodriguez doubled to left, driving in Delfino and Brown, with Mergenthaler going to third.
Trent Blank came in as the Dust Devils’ third relief pitcher and retired the first two batters he faced. Sam Eberle, on a 3-2 count, scored Mergenthaler with a sacrifice fly to left.
Salem-Keizer kept its 6-4 lead until the ninth inning. Tyler Mizenko, tied for first in the league with saves at 13, took the mound as the Volcanoes’ third reliever and expected closer. After retiring Herrera on a grounder, he gave up successive singles to Argyropoulos and Sosa. He struck out Miguel De Leon, a previous problem for Volcano pitching, but Derek Jones doubled to center to score both baserunners.
Facing a new Tri-City pitcher, Michael Wolford, Stephen Yarrow led off the Volcano ninth with a single to left. Wolford retired the next two batters, and Delfino singled to right. However, Mergenthaler grounded out to send the game into extra innings.
With one out in the 10th, Rodriguez walked and Andrew Cain moved him to second with a bunt single. Chuckie Jones pinch ran for Rodriguez. The next two batters were retired.
Mizenko set the Dust Devils down in order in the 11th. In the bottom of the inning, with one out, Brown singled to left and went to third on Sosa’s second error, which gave Delfino two bases. Mergenthaler walked to load the bases, and a strategy meeting on the mound followed. Branca then hit into a double play.
Steven Okert came in to pitch the 12th. He had runners on first and second with two out but retired Herrera on a force out.
Dust Devils manager Freddie Ocasio, having run out of available pitchers, moved the catcher, Aguilera, took the mound for the first time in his professional career in the 12th and retired the Volcanoes in order.
In the 13th, the new catcher, Richard Pirkle, singled and went to second on an error by Metzger, who had moved from center field to left, with Jones playing center. Sosa’s sacrifice bunt moved Pirkle to third, but Okert retired the next two men.
With two out in the Salem-Keizer 13th, Brown doubled to left. An infielder, Patrick Hutcheson, came in to pitch and loaded the bases with walks to Delfino and Mergenthaler. Branca singled to center, with Brown scoring the game-winning run.
Okert, asked what the pitchers had been doing to become much better in the second half than the first, said, “Just working on being more consistent with our deliveries and handling pressure better.”
Branca, looking at the offense and fielding over the season, observed that “the second half of the year was totally different.”
Tom Trebelhorn, the Volcanoes’ manager, called the game “kind of tainted,” saying, “We had to beat a catcher and an infielder.”
Also calling the game “interesting,” he commented, “We had a lot of nice things happen.”
A crowd of 2,365 watched the game.