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JetHawks See Why Lee Got the Money

Baseball: High Desert's $10-million man beats Lancaster with his bat and his glove in the ninth inning of opener, 5-4.

April 04, 1997|JEFF FLETCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LANCASTER — Maybe Travis Lee is worth $10 million.

The High Desert Mavericks' first baseman, signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks for a then-record bonus last fall, spoiled the JetHawks' season opener Thursday night by driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth and making two outstanding defensive plays in the bottom half of the Lancaster JetHawks' 5-4 California League loss before a paid crowd of 4,119.

"If you sign something like that you've got to try to back it up," Lee said.

Lee's run-scoring double in the top of the ninth broke a 4-4 tie with the JetHawks bringing up the bottom third of the order in their half of the inning.

Carlos Villalobos walked, took second on an errant pickoff throw by pitcher Mark Tranbarger and went to third on Dusty Wathan's grounder. With the infield in to keep the tying run from scoring, Lee made a diving, backhand stop of Luis Molina's grounder, stepping on first for the out and holding Villalobos at third.

"That was probably the play of the game," said JetHawk Manager Rick Burleson. "That ball Luis hit was smoked. It had double written all over it."

Joe Mathis followed with a line drive toward right but Lee made another diving catch, then pounded his glove on the ground in celebration.

"I didn't think he was going to get to it," Mathis said. "He's a big man. He's faster than I thought he was. He made a nice play. I tip my hat to him."

JetHawk relievers Allan Westfall and Jason Bond shut out the Mavericks for four innings while their teammates scored a run to tie the game.

But pinch-hitter Mike Boughton led off the ninth with a double off Bond and Lee, the touted prospect playing in his first professional game, followed with a double into deep right-center field.

Mathis hit the second pitch of the season into the right-field corner for a triple and Chris Dean drove him in with a sacrifice fly.

Luis Tinoco doubled but was thrown out overrunning second base. It was a costly mistake because the next batter, James Clifford, hit a home run.

Tinoco made up for his mistake in his next at-bat when he ripped a home run, giving the JetHawks a 3-1 lead.

JetHawk starter Kevin Gryboski gave up four runs in four innings and left trailing, 4-3.

The JetHawks tied the score in the seventh, when Molina tripled and Mathis singled him home.

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