Notes: Buck Coats Homers; Thomas Atlee Strong

Buck Coats

Buck Coats had been waiting quite awhile for his first home run of 2005, while Thomas Atlee was solid again for West Tenn.

Iowa lost to Albuquerque, 5-4

Scott McClain hit his farm system best 28th home run and the second in as many nights on Wednesday. He has started at first base now six times in his last seven contests. McClain entered the night batting .297, his best average of the year. He remains a favorite to win team MVP honors after leading the club in homers, RBIs, doubles and runs scored.

Starter Jon Leicester turned in one of his best outings to date. He allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings before picking up a no-decision. Leicester's last win came on June 28. He is winless in his last eight starts and has a 1-7 record and 5.63 ERA at Iowa. Carmen Pignatiello took the loss in the bottom of the ninth when Ronny Cedeno's 10th error eventually led to the winning run. Pignatiello has now suffered a loss in each of his last two outings despite not allowing an earned run in either appearance.

West Tenn beat Mobile, 7-3

Buck Coats hit his first home run of 2005 on Wednesday afternoon. Reliever Andrew Shipman, who earned his 10th save on Tuesday night, called it.

"Ship said, ‘Here it comes--first homer of the year. Changeup over the fence,' " said right-hander Thomas Atlee.

Coats' last home run had come over one year ago on August 15 at Daytona. He has hit safely in nine of his last 10 starts with four multi-hit games in that span to raise his average to .282. He committed his 32nd error of the season at short.

Coats' homer, a two-run shot, erased a 2-0 Jaxx deficit in the fourth inning. An inning later, Matt Craig launched his 11th home run, a solo shot that gave the Jaxx their first lead.

Atlee said, "The guy (Coats) has been hitting well all year. He's been making some timely hits. Obviously it helped us on a hot day like today. To fall behind early like that and have Buck tie it, sure enough it was awesome. And then Craig comes through and gets the go-ahead hit. Both were very huge and played a huge roll in us winning."

Ryan Theriot, batting .304 this year, picked up two RBIs, bringing his season total to 50. With the bases loaded in the seventh, his two-run single, combined with a throwing error, broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Jaxx a 6-3 lead.

For his part, Atlee threw two innings of scoreless relief, allowing no hits and one walk. It was the first time since July 31 that he had thrown more than one inning in any appearance.

"I've been trying to get more innings in as opposed to just going out there for the one-inning stints," Atlee said. "I like going two innings and I'd throw three or four if they'd let me."

Since being promoted to West Tenn in late June, Atlee has a 2.81 ERA in 21 relief appearances, a span of 25.2 innings.

"Bobby (Dickerson) has preached all year long about--whenever we tie it up or take the lead, we as pitchers have to get three up, three down to keep the momentum in our favor," Atlee said. "For the most part today, we were fortunate to do that and let them know we weren't going to go away."

Left-hander Ryan O'Malley started and allowed two runs and six hits through 5.2 innings. At one point he retired eight straight hitters after the slow start. The win went to right-hander Victor Ramos, who gave up only his fourth earned run, and his first home run, since being promoted to West Tenn from Peoria. He has held opposing hitters to a .213 average at Double-A for a 2.12 ERA.

Daytona beat Vero Beach, 11-4

Brian Dopirak hit his 15th home run, a two-run shot as part of a season-high four-RBI night. In doing so, he moved into fourth place in the Cubs' farm system in RBIs with 68 on the year. Jake Fox also had a season-high night at the plate in RBIs. He drove in three runs thanks in large part to his seventh home run, also a two-run shot.

The Cubs entered Wednesday night with a .260 team batting average, good for fourth in the 12-team Florida State League, but last for any Cubs minor league affiliate. The team is hitting .286 for the month of August, all without the help of Kevin Collins, who last played on July 25 and was third on the team in RBIs when he went down with an injury. Director of Player Development Oneri Fleita said Collins was suffering from a tendon injury in his foot. He will miss the remainder of the season.

Fox and Dopirak were two of five Daytona players to record two hits or more as part of a 15-hit attack by the offense, which was more than enough to give starter J.R. Mathes his ninth win. Mathes allowed only three runs (two earned) despite nine hits in six innings. He was coming off his worst career outing last Wednesday, also against Vero Beach, in which he surrendered a career-high 10 runs in 1.2 innings. The left-hander has allowed eight hits or more in four straight starts for an opponents average of .294 for the year and a 4.20 ERA.

Peoria fell 4-2 to South Bend

Ryan Harvey hit a two-run homer in his first start back from a tight hamstring ailment that sidelined him for four games. Harvey hit his Midwest League best 22nd homer in his first at-bat of the night, on the first pitch. After a scorching month of July in which he hit eight homers and drove in 33 RBIs, Harvey is batting .271 for the year with 52 extra base hits. He has now taken over the league lead in RBIs with 88 for the year. Eric Patterson stole his 36th base and has hits in 10 of his last 12 games.

Mike Billek, a third round pick from the University of Central Florida, made his fifth start since being promoted from Boise. He allowed two runs on six hits in 5.1 innings. Entering the night, he had surrendered two hits or less in three straight starts. The loss went to struggling sophomore Jerry Blevins, who fell to 3-6. He allowed the game-winning runs in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie and walked a season-high four batters in one inning.

Boise lost to Salem-Keizer, 9-1

Donald Veal's third start at Boise on Wednesday night was another short one. He lasted only 2.2 innings, facing 13 batters and allowing four runs (two earned) and three walks. He has allowed four home runs in 17.1 innings between Boise and the Arizona League. Veal's short outing was a prelude to the rest of the evening.

The team managed just six hits, three of which were courtesy of the bat of Chris Gaskin. It was his second straight three-hit night and his third multi-hit game in a row, raising his average a full 25 points to .281 in that span. The Hawks have been out-scored 51-9 in their last five losses. At 10 below .500, they remain only three games back of first place Spokane in the Northwest League East.

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