Strong start, rough finish

2012-08-17T23:19:00Z 2012-08-18T15:41:07Z Strong start, rough finishBy MIKE SCHERTING mscherting@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Amir Garrett still has dreams of playing in the NBA. That doesn’t mean his intention of pitching on a Major League Baseball mound has taken a back seat.

In his second — and final — start for the Billings Mustangs, Garrett tossed three shutout innings, getting his team off to a good start. It didn’t stick, however, as the Ogden Raptors beat up the Mustangs’ bullpen for an 11-3 win before 3,143 fans at Dehler Park.

The Raptors batted around in the sixth and eighth innings, but before that, Garrett, a 22nd-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds last year, had them comfortably in check.

The 6-foot-5 left-hander allowed just one hit, one walk and pitched around a game-beginning error, and strolled off the mound after his three innings with a 1-0 lead, which grew to 3-0 in the bottom half of the inning.

That left Garrett with six shutout innings in his brief Mustangs stint. He heads back to St. John’s on Saturday, where he’ll begin classes and then preparation for his sophomore season with the Red Storm basketball team, with 20 total innings pitched this summer. He threw 14 innings in the Arizona League before coming to Billings.

“I would have liked to thrown more, but (the Reds) are

working me along slowly,” said Garrett, who averaged 7.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 22 games for the Red Storm last season. “I’m just going along with what they want to do, so it’s all right.”

Garrett did more than all right on Friday by throwing between 91 and 94 mph and averaging 92. He struck out three.

“He’s very raw, but I’ve been very impressed,” Mustangs manager Pat Kelly said. “We saw him when he first joined us in Arizona from school and he was way behind on the learning curve. You can see how far he’s come.”

Kelly, who played with Danny Ainge, another professional basketball-baseball athlete, when they were both in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, said Garrett faces some unique challenges in the years ahead.

“He turns around and he’s not going to touch a baseball for the next eight, nine months,” Kelly said. “That part of it is going to be tough until it all plays out, whichever sport he decides.”

Garrett said that decision isn’t coming anytime soon.

“I want to do both as long as I can,” he said. “I can’t pick between the two.”

After Joel Bender threw two shutout innings in relief of Garrett, the Mustangs still maintained their three-run lead on RBIs from Matt Lentz, Robert Maddox and Carlos Sanchez. But the Raptors scored 11 times in the final four innings off Bender (2-3), Ben Klimesh, Nolan Becker and Erik Miller to walk away with their second straight victory at Dehler.

“We squandered some opportunities early,” Kelly said. “We should have had a bigger lead than three. I thought we had (Ogden starter Juan Frias) on the ropes a couple times and left him off. And then it just kind of snowballed in that sixth inning.”

Inside the series

Frias was the beneficiary of Ogden’s five-run sixth inning and improved to 6-4. … Ogden’s Corey Seager hit the game’s only home run. He had two RBIs, as did Delvis Morales and Eric Smith. … Sanchez had three hits for the Mustangs, including his league-leading ninth triple. Mustangs SS Zach Vincej went 2 for 4, raising his average to .424. He’s been over the .400 mark since Aug. 6 and is 10 for 21 (.476) in his last seven games. … 2B Taylor Wrenn was scratched from the original starting lineup with a sore hand. He’s day to day. ... In Pioneer League related news, Grand Junction’s David Dahl had his 27-game hitting streak snapped on Thursday night in Great Falls. Dahl, who topped the 22-game hitting streak of Mustangs’ 3B Seth Mejias-Brean, was threatening the league record. Former Mustangs Chris Valaika hit in 32 straight games during the 2006 season. ... Saturday night’s game sees Dan Langfield (3-0, 3.13) starting for the Mustangs against Jake Hermsen (1-6, 4.60) for the Raptors.

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