By MIKE READLING
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2001
It took it down to the wire and made it a little more interesting than planned, but the Bakersfield Blaze officially can say it is the most successful team in the Rays organization.
The Blaze scored three in the eighth and the winning run in the ninth Sunday night to defeat Lake Elsinore 5-4 and clinch a tie for the first-half title in the California League's North Division.
The Blaze finished the first half 37-33, tied with San Jose and one game ahead of Mudville. Lake Elsinore won the South Division title by 13 games over High Desert with a record of 50-20.
The Blaze earned the best record of the four Rays affiliates, although Durham, at 34-35 through Monday with three games remaining in the first half of the International League season, has a chance to tie. Orlando was 31-40 in the Double-A Southern League and Charleston 31-39 in the Class A South Atlantic League through Monday's games.
NEW GUY: Just when he thought he was headed to the Appalachian League to play for Princeton, Ed Scott got the call to go to Charleston instead.
The 5-foot-11, 170-pound outfielder, who signed a free-agent contract with the team Jan. 24, was promoted from extended spring to the RiverDogs on Friday, earning his first chance to play for a professional team. Scott was hitless in his first two at-bats, striking out once.
BANGED UP IN BAKERSFIELD ... : This is how bad it has gotten for the Blaze: Alex Marconi played the final four innings of Sunday's game at first base. He's a backup catcher.
With All-Star selection Nate Kaup and Rays first-ever draft pick Paul Wilder on the disabled list, Bakersfield lost three more players Friday night. Infielders Kelly Eddlemon, who just came off the disabled list, and Alberto Castillo both left Friday's game with groin injuries, and outfielder Jeremy Murch was suspended before the game for a fight that occurred last week against San Jose.
... AND DURHAM: The Bulls needed to make room on their roster when Dan Wheeler was sent back down from Tampa Bay, so they turned to the one guy who wouldn't mind.
Chris Hatcher, who has a bad back, was placed on the disabled list Thursday, meaning now he'll have a good reason for not playing. Hatcher is hitting .214 in 24 games this season with six home runs and 20 RBI. He has played in one game since May 22 and twice since April 29.
WHIPLASH: Proving practice does indeed make perfect, Travis Harper gave up three home runs Saturday night. In 12 games with Durham this season Harper has given up 13 home runs.
In two games of relief with Tampa Bay this season, Harper gave up five home runs.
THE FUTURE: Durham catcher Toby Hall was selected to play in the Future's Game during All-Star week next month in Seattle, the first Durham player to be given that honor. Bulls manager Bill Evers was a coach in the game two years ago. Josh Hamilton played in the game last year, representing Class A Charleston.
Hall was hitting .336 through Monday's games with 15 home runs and 54 RBI. Sunday he padded those stats with a 3-for-4 day, including two home runs and three runs scored.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I just want to go out and meet all the guys from around the league." -- Kaup, announcing his California League All-Star plans despite a groin injury.