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Aviators shut down

ATWATER — The departures of Kevin Christy, Tim Dunn and Harry Stanwyck because of injury have left the Atwater Aviators pitching staff shorthanded.

Rollo Adams' squad is down to just 12 pitchers, and it kicked off a stretch of six games in six days with a three-game series against the Redding Colt .45s on Tuesday night, a 7-2 Atwater loss.

With the limited resources, the monitoring of pitch counts and innings will become all the more important for Adams and his staff. Tyler Lanham went a long way toward easing that burden on Tuesday night.

The UC Davis product made the most of his first start with the Aviators efficiently working his way into the seventh inning.

Unfortunately for Atwater, Lanham couldn't quite finish his outing off.

After recording two quick outs, fatigue seemed to set in. Lanham hit a batter and walked another, exiting the game at 75 pitches.

Relief pitcher Ralph Vasquez couldn't work Lanham out of the jam as Redding struck for four runs. The two-out rally broke the game open.

"I felt good in my last two relief appearances, so it was nice to get my first start," Lanham said. "The defense picked me up in the first couple innings. A couple guys got caught stealing and we were pretty solid all over.

"It would have been nice to finish the seventh, but I hit the one guy and then started to lose the strike zone on the other. Fatigue was definitely setting in."

Vasquez has been rock solid in getting the Aviators out of such jams all season, but couldn't get it done on Tuesday. He walked Tino Lipson (3 for 4, 3B, 2 RBI) to load the bases and then gave up a base-clearing double to make it a 6-2 game. Brandon Healy followed with an RBI single to make it 7-2.

"I felt like Lanham did a good job," Adams said. "He got us deep into the game, but we just couldn't finish that seventh inning off.

"We're probably going to have to go pitcher by committee from here on, so it was a good start."

An error helped Redding (12-7 Far West League) push across the game's first run in the third inning, but Atwater (12-4 FWL, 29-10) answered back in the bottom of the fourth.

Andrew Bynum got just enough of a 2-2 pitch to drive a two-out, two-run home run over the left-field fence to give the Aviators a 2-1 lead.

"I'd talked to (hitting coach Dick) Vitato before the game about just trusting my hands with two strikes," Bynum said. "I got two strikes on me and tried to just do that. I thought I got enough of the ball."

Radding answered in the next half inning. Kurt Lee tied the game up with an RBI ground out and Lipson put the Colt .45s up for good with a run-scoring triple.

The Aviators best chance to answer came in the bottom of the fifth, but they couldn't do anything with two on and no one out.

"We had our opportunities to break that game open early," Adams said. "There was a number of times we had the right guys up in big spots and they didn't get it done.

"We didn't get much out of our 3-4-5 guys tonight. If they hit, we win. That's how it's been all season."

Sports writer Sean Lynch He can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or slynch@mercedsun-star.com.

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