Three-run eighth gives Glendale AFL win against Rafters

The Glendale Desert Dogs rallied to defeat the Salt River Rafters 7-5 at Salt River Fields Thursday night in Scottsdale, as a three-run eighth inning was enough to overcome a monstrous performance by Salt River first baseman Dominic Smith.

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Smith had given the Rafters (3-4) the lead with a towering two-run homerun—his third hit of the evening—in the bottom of the seventh inning, but a one-out, two-run double from designated hitter Reese McGuire zapped all the momentum from Salt River, and ultimately gave Glendale (5-1) the win.

“Fastball,” McGuire said. “We were battling there and (I) got a good pitch down in the zone where I like it. At first I thought the second baseman was going to have a chance at it. Rogers battled that last inning before that, and I told him we’d pick him. It was a good feeling to have his back there, too.”

Played in front of a crowd of 642, the game was a back-and-forth affair throughout.

Salt River found itself in an early deficit, as a sacrifice fly by Glendale catcher Andrew Knapp in the first inning and an RBI single by right fielder Derek Fisher in the second gave the Desert Dogs a 2-0 lead.

Glendale starting pitcher Jharel Cotton dazzled for the limited time he was in. The right-hander fired three solid innings, allowing three hits and a walk and amassing six strikeouts. The lone threat Salt River mustered off him came in his final frame of work when he threw eight balls in 12 pitches, allowed two baserunners, but escaped unscathed.

Salt River commenced its comeback bid in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to second baseman Jeff McNeil battling in a full count and roping an RBI single to score right fielder Daniel Palka and make the deficit 2-1.

The Rafters then seized the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Palka notched his second hit of the game—a two-RBI single that scored shortstop Jack Reinheimer and first baseman Dominic Smith.

From that point forward, the game morphed into the Smith and McGuire showcase.

McGuire tied the game at three apiece in the top of the sixth, driving home center fielder Adam Engel, who had walked and stolen third base. The hit was McGuire’s first of the night, and despite only logging five at bats prior to Thursday’s game, he said he’s starting to get into a groove at the plate.

“It’s rained like three days in a row here in Arizona, which is weird, but it’s good to get in the box and feel a couple of hard contacts,” McGuire said.

Meanwhile, Smith was having a quiet-but-productive night as well, slashing two singles before his fourth plate appearance. But with the score knotted and a runner aboard, Smith’s third hit of the night came in grandiose fashion when he turned on an offering from Glendale pitcher Rob Rogers and blasted it over the right-field fence to put Salt River up by two runs.

“He went with a sinker down and away,” Smith said. “I knew my first at bat when I got my first hit, it was a sinker away. And then my second at bat when I got my walk, he was trying to come in with a sinker. Really was leaving it away, away, away, so my third at bat I knew he would trying and come in, and he did, and I just put a good swing on it.”

All told, Smith reached base five times—he interspersed his sixth walk of the season in his second plate appearance and added a single in his fifth trip to the plate—and he bolstered his league-leading batting average (.625) and OPS (1.773).

“Swinging at good pitches,” Smith said in regards to what’s been fueling his torrid start. “While I’m continuously swinging at good pitches, I’m hitting the ball fairly well. That’s all I try and really focus on—if I swing at good pitches and good things tend to happen. I’m pretty happy that I’m just locked in.”

And yet Smith’s stellar 4-for-4 performance took a back seat Thursday night to McGuire’s late-game heroics. His line drive into the right-field gap scored two, and propelled Glendale to its league-leading fifth win.

“Being a competitor, I want to succeed on both sides, obviously, and help my team win,” McGuire said. “But sometimes I just have to tell myself, my defense is the most important part of my position. I can take care of my defense and do my part offensively when my time’s there.”

Salt River travels to Mesa Friday to take on the Solar Sox, while Glendale travels to Surprise to play the Saguaros.

Editor’s note: Jacob Garcia is a student at Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism.

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