By DANNY MARTIN
Assistant coach Elliott Strankman had no strategy when he put together the Alaska Goldpanners’ lineup for Thursday night’s nonconference baseball game against the Stockton Senators of California.
But the Goldpanners’ 13-5 romp at Growden Memorial Park showed it was a stroke of genius for him to have Geoff Byrns batting in the No. 3 spot and Joey Dunn hitting right behind him. The two combined for six hits, six runs batted in and five runs scored.
Byrns, a third baseman who recently finished his sophomore season at Chabot College in Hayward, Calif., went 3 for 4 with two RBI from a triple in the bottom of the fifth inning. He also scored four times, with three of them from hits by Dunn.
“It always gives me a lot of confidence to know that I have a really good hitter behind me,” Byrns said. “It forces the pitcher to go after me a little bit than if there was a weaker guy behind me. He might be able to pitch around me a little bit, but it definitely gives me a lot more confidence at the plate.”
Byrns didn’t finish his sixth at-bat in the eighth because he pulled his right hamstring with the count two balls and two strikes against Stockton relief pitcher Pedro Castellanos. Alex Mills came in to finish the at-bat and was hit by a pitch.
Byrns will take tonight off but expects to be in the lineup Saturday night against the Southern California Running Birds.
Dunn, a sophomore catcher from the University of Washington, hit 3 for 5 with four RBI and one run scored.
Goldpanners manager Ed Cheff and Strankman said the lineup was more or less thrown together because of injuries and the absence of several players who haven’t arrived yet. Among those who haven’t arrived is left fielder Mike Lissman, who’s playing with Oregon State in the College World Series.
“There’s no strategy at all yet because we don’t know what we’re doing yet,” Cheff joked about putting the lineup together.
“It’s pretty complicated. How much time do you have?,” Strankman, who also played at second baseman and batted fifth, said lightheartedly. “It’s kind of a skeleton crew right now. We had a pitcher playing right field tonight.”
Regardless of how Thursday’s lineup was formed, Alaska’s coaching staff was satisfied with the outcome, as the defending Alaska Baseball League champions generated 17 hits off three Senators pitchers, helping raise their record to 2-0.
Stockton starter Bobby Allen took the loss after giving up five runs and four hits in 1 2/3 innings. He also hit two batters and walked three with one strikeout.
Strankman, right fielder Dixon Allen, center fielder Chu Yuan-Chin and shortstop Mark Thompson each had two hits. Strankman also had an RBI and scored a run and Thompson and Chu each scored once.
“We’ve got some pretty good hitters,” said Cheff. “I think we’re going to be a little more offensive team than we were last year. Pitching is a question mark because we haven’t seen much, but I think our pitching will be okay.”
Cheff, though, wasn’t surprised at starter Sean Timmons’ work on the mound.
The 29-year-old right-hander from Fairbanks began his 10th season with the Goldpanners by allowing a run, scattering six hits, striking out six and giving up a walk over six innings.
“He was just amazing,” said Cheff. “He just had special command of his slider; he’s always had that since he’s been pitching.”
Right-handed Wu Cheng-Hsien of Taiwan, in his first appearance of the season, pitched three innings, allowing four runs, six hits and a walk and striking out one.
“It’s hard to tell, he was a probably a little nervous,” Cheff assessed. “He couldn’t get any of his other pitches over than a fastball for a strike. It was too many fastballs.”
All of the runs Wu allowed came off an inside-the-park grand slam by Stockton right fielder Shane Farmer in the top of the eighth. Farmer finished 1 for 5, including going hitless in his first three at-bats.
“You don’t see those much,” Cheff said of the inside-the-park grand slam. “It’s the first one I’ve ever seen and I’ve been coaching for 35 years.”
Cheff is also the head coach at Lewis-Clark State College of Lewiston, Idaho, which recently captured its 14th NAIA national championship.
Stockton shortstop Steve Rinaudo hit 3 for 5 Thursday with an RBI triple in the top of the third and he scored once.
The teams close out their series at 7 tonight.