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Big crowd watches walk-off ‘Topes win

Trevor Story gave the second-largest crowd at Isotopes Park this season something other than postgame fireworks to celebrate.

On the first of back-to-back fan appreciation nights, Story energized an announced throng of 14,299 by delivering a walk-off two run single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Isotopes a 6-5 victory over Colorado Springs.

Saturday’s attendance was topped only by a July 3 game against Reno, which drew an announced 16,286.

“The last week we’ve been playing some pretty exciting games,” ‘Topes manager Glenallen Hill said. “Having it being the second-to-last game at home, I think the fans deserved that.”

Angelys Nina got the rally started with an infield single to lead off the Albuquerque half of the ninth inning. The timely hit extended the left fielder’s hitting streak to 15 games.

Tim Smalling followed with a walk, and Tim Wheeler moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt. From there Colorado elected to walk Rafael Ynoa, setting the stage for Story’s heroics.

The Albuquerque third baseman lined the first pitch he saw from Preston Guilmet to center field, allowing Nina and Smalling to score and setting off a mini-mosh pit celebration in the outfield.

“I was confident. I was pretty happy about that situation,” Hill said.

“I totally understand the move (by Colorado Springs). You’ve got to play for a double play there, or a force out. It just worked out for us.”

Story’s clutch hit came on the heels of a potentially disheartening eighth inning, as the Sky Sox staged a three-run rally against Isotopes relievers Nelson Gonzalez and Miguel Castro to take a 5-4 lead.

With two on and none out, Colorado Springs’ Nevin Ashley singled in a run to cut the deficit to 4-3. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third, Gonzalez was pulled in favor of Castro, who promptly surrendered a two-run double to Michael Reed.

Hill gave the two hurlers mixed reviews.

“Besides not executing pitches on Gonzalez’s part, Castro did fine. There was just a lot of things that go into that situation that’s (part of) a learning process,” he said. “I thought Castro threw the ball well. Nelson kind of let that inning get away from him walking a guy with a runner on first base on a 3-2 breaking ball that was not close to where he intended it to go.”

The two teams went back and forth in the early frames, but Albuquerque appeared to seize momentum in the bottom of the fifth when Sky Sox centerfielder Kyle Wren dropped an easy fly ball in center field, allowing Jeremy Barfield to score from second to give the Topes a 3-2 lead.

The next inning, Wilin Rosario homered to center field to extend the Isotopes’ margin to 4-2.

‘Topes starter Rudy Owens exited the game after six solid innings. He allowed five hits and two runs while striking out a season-high eight batters. However, he was denied victory as a result of Colorado Springs’ eighth-inning comeback.

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