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Weagle tough on hill for Twisters.

Byline: Jack McCluskey

BROCKTON - For a moment last night, no one in Campanelli Stadium knew if Chuck Jeroloman was safe or out.

There were two outs in the top of the ninth, and the score was tied at 4. The Tornadoes third baseman had just bowled over Brockton catcher Lee Rubin, as the Rox reserve tried to simultaneously block the plate and catch the throw from right fielder Eugene Julien. And for one fleeting moment, everyone was in doubt.

Then the ball trickled away and Jeroloman wriggled over Rubin and slapped home plate, giving the Tornadoes a lead en route to the 4-3 victory.

Not that the Rox went quietly, however.

Despite a mounting pitch count, Worcester starter Matt Weagle returned to the mound for the bottom of the ninth.

"At that point, it was his game," Tornadoes manager Rich Gedman said.

It was his game, and yet it almost got away from him in the ninth.

The Worcester native had only been in trouble on a couple of occasions, posting zeros early in a duel with Brockton starter Steve Delabar. Neither team got a hit until the third inning. Worcester got three in the inning but failed to score, thanks in large part to a nifty double play started when Delabar leapt off the pitching rubber to nab a Mike MacMillan dribbler and fire to second base. Neither team scored until the fifth, when the teams traded a run.

Worcester catcher Alex Trezza caught a Delabar two-seamer up in the sixth and deposited it in the cheap seats past the right field wall for a two-run homer to make it 3-1. An inning later, Weagle - who needed a win to tie teammate Tom Cochran (and Sussex's Kyle Ruwe) for the Can-Am League lead in wins with a seventh victory - got himself into trouble for the first time by walking Rox cleanup hitter Phillip Cuadrado with one out.

"You never like to give up walks," Weagle said afterward.

Mainly because they can quickly turn into runs. The next batter, Rox first baseman Jason Colson, demonstrated how by blasting an 0-2 Weagle offering over the fence in left to tie the game.

"It was a two-seamer away," Weagle said. "He hit the pitch I wanted to throw."

Seemingly unfazed all night, the battery of Weagle and Trezza went back to work, getting a strikeout and a groundout (sandwiched around an Ervin Alcantara single and stolen base) to get out of the inning.

In the eighth, the teams traded missed opportunities. Worcester wasted a Scott Grimes double, and Brockton stranded a runner at third when Weagle struck out Rox slugger Jud Thigpen - tied for second in the Can-Am League with eight homers and fourth in RBIs with 31 - on a high, hard one.

Then came the ninth. With one out, Jerolomon lofted a long fly ball to right-center field that landed just over Alcantara's outstretched glove. As the ball bounded to the wall, Jeroloman motored around second base, reaching third easily and giving Worcester two chances to take the lead.

They would only need one.

Second baseman Omar Pena hit a high fly ball to shallow right-center off Brockton reliever Jerry Dunn (1-1). Julien's throw was good but it pulled Rubin up the third-base line a few steps in front of the plate, and the rookie catcher wasn't able to secure the ball before the Tornado hit him.

So Weagle took another lead to the mound in the bottom of the inning and quickly retired Cuadrado on a grounder to second. Getting ahead of Colson, Weagle again induced a ground ball to second but this one snuck through the legs of Pena for an error. When the next Brockton batter singled, Gedman strolled to the mound for a conversation with his starter.

It didn't take long for the manager to be convinced that Weagle should remain in the game.

"That's what's great about Ged," Weagle said, "he knows we all want to compete."

With two on and only one out, Weagle would have to compete for at least a bit longer. He got Alcantara to fly to center for the second out, with Colson advancing to third on the play. Then came a battle with the man whose throw nearly kept the game tied, Julien. The right fielder nearly tied the game twice, rifling fastballs down the third-base line, but he pulled each foul. On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, he walked.

That brought up Rubin, the backup to starter Josh Vander Hey, with the bases loaded and a chance to keep this opportunity from squirting away. The first pitch to Rubin nearly hit him, and the next offering was high and tight. The third pitch was right down the middle, taken for a strike. With the runners leading off the bases, Weagle delivered again, getting Rubin to tap to first baseman Chris Colabello for the final out.

What did Weagle say that Gedman left him in to finish what he started?

"He said, `I'm fine, I want it. I got this guy,'" Gedman said.

Turns out, he did.

NAME: WORCESTER TORNADOES
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 7, 2008
Words:851
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