Monday, April 20, 2009

'Rakers take it to last stanza, fall to Dianda Plaza in opener

CONCORD -- Muckraker down! Muckraker down!

Just as Rick Hurd picked himself up, brushed the dirt off and got back to it after sustaining a baseline near-TKO, so did the Muckrakers battle and scrap for six innings in their season debut on Thursday. The feisty ’Rakers earned an “E” for effort but found the “W” more elusive in a 10-9 edging at the hands of Dianda Plaza on Field 1.

Your local 12 took the early lead, fell behind in mid-game, then saw a last-inning rally fall short in dropping to 0-1 for the nascent season.

One might say all is not doom and gloom, although the Mucksters didn’t get off to the fast start for which they were hoping. After all, they were facing a Dianda Plaza team that handled them quite easily in both meetings in last year’s summer league. This one was quite the different story; Dianda was fortunate to return to its Plaza with a victory in tow.

Several factors combined to make this a taunt ballgame the entire way. Randy Striegel made several spectacular stops at shortstop, drawing grudging admiration from the opposition. And Luke Abbott made Muckraker history by starting at rover, the first time the Mucksters had begun the game in the 1-3 outfield configuration. ‘Raker rookie Matt Knauf made a fine running catch in short left. Mike DeCicco and Tony Hicks also acquitted themselves well in their first games in the Muckraker black-and-white. DeCicco sounded the fashion chord of the game in donning sky-blue cleats.

The season certainly got of to a hopeful start when, after yielding two runs in the top of the first, the Men of Muck struck for four runs in the bottom half. Striegel launched a double and Dave Alcorn, Knauf, Hurd and Taxier all singled.

There was no letup for the ’Rackers as they piled on three more runs in the second to go up 7-5. The bottom half of the order got the party started as Hicks, DeCicco and manager Chris Wagnon all singled to load the bases, then Mike Yurkus (3-for-3, only a homer short of the cycle) plated them all with his triple.

Unfortunately for Our Heroes, the Muckinators were to score only two more runs in the game. Yurkus tripled in the fourth and was singled home by Striegel, and Bob Brindley delivered Alcorn with a base hit.

Down 10-9 going into the last of the sixth, the Muckrakers were able to put three runners on but fell short of stomping on home plate, and that was your ballgame.

Although it's very early, the game already has taken its toll, has extracted its pound of flesh. First baseman Hurd was nearly down for the count when he sustained a head injury while tagging out a Dianda Plaza runner in ending a run-down. Wagnon played through groin miseries but will probably not suit up for game No. 2.

Despite the bumps and bruises it was still an auspicious start for your Muckrakers. An intriguing blend of old ’Rakers and new portends good things for this summer.

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