Crowd helps Williamson fulfill destiny
Charlie Williamson tried, he really did.
Standing on the mound with the game and his first professional win on the line, the Missoula Osprey pitcher just couldn't block out the noise of the crowd.
"Charlie, Charlie, Charlie," they chanted.
So he took a few deep breaths, and then gave the 2,437 strong at Lindborg-Cregg Field what they wanted.
Helena's Alejandro Martinez, a man the Osprey had not retired all night, bounced a ground ball to second baseman Jack Santora for the final out of the game, handing Missoula a hard-fought 8-6 victory in its Pioneer League home opener Tuesday night.
"Right now it's all a blur," Williamson said, sitting alone in the dugout after the game. "It seemed like in the ninth, with two outs, the fans just took over the game. You try not to get distracted, but 3,000 people willed that win. It seemed like destiny."
Williamson wasn't the only Osprey to become an instant fan favorite. Center fielder Luis Terrero blasted a first-inning grand slam to jump-start Missoula's offense. It was his third home run in seven games.
Williamson, a 21-year-old right-hander, garnered the fans' appreciation when he sprinted onto the field in the sixth inning to relieve starter P.J. Bevis.
Bevis, who pitched well over the first five innings, tired in the sixth. He allowed four straight hits, including a two-run home run by Hector Garcia, without recording an out. Garcia's homer rallied the Brewers within 6-4.
Martinez followed with a double, ending Bevis' night. That brought Osprey manager Joe Almaraz to the mound and Williamson in from the bullpen.
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After enticing a fly ball from the first batter he faced, Williamson gave up a run-scoring double to Brandon Doucet. He struck out leadoff hitter Joe Bucherri for the second out. He appeared to be out of the inning when the next batter, Anulfo Geraldo, hit a ground ball to third base, but the ball got under the glove of Jeff Brooks for an error, allowing the tying run to score.
Williamson didn't allow the mistake to shake him, striking out Ryan Knox looking to end the inning.
Missoula finally broke the deadlock in the eighth inning, scoring two runs off reliever Carlos Aponte. Second baseman Jack Santora, who arrived in Missoula on Tuesday afternoon from UCLA, where he just finished up classes, had the key hit. He lined a single up the middle to score Jose Lopez, who led off the inning with a triple. Santora was called out at second after over-slid the bag trying to stretch his hit into a double.
J.D. Closser kept the rally going with a two-out single, and first baseman Lyle Overbay followed with a double, his second of the game, to score Closser with an insurance run.
"It felt good to get that hit," Santora said. "I was really nervous tonight. I haven't swung a bat in two weeks. It was such a great crowd. At UCLA, we were playing in front of a couple hundred. Here, the fans are just amazing."
Knox led off the top of the ninth with a bunt single, but Williamson struck out the next two batters and induced the ground ball from Martinez, who finished the night 3-for-4.
Williamson allowed one unearned run and struck out six in his four innings of work. He still has not allowed an earned run in seven innings of work this season.
"This is such a great feeling," Williamson said as he signed the game ball to send to his mother. "I really can't describe it."
The Osprey scored two runs in the fourth to take a 6-1 lead. Right fielder Doug DeVore ripped an RBI triple, to score Corey Myers, and Brooks followed with a single to plate DeVore.
Closser and Overbay each finished with two hits.
Wednesday - 6/23/99