RENO - Returning home after an 11-game, 10-day road trip, the first-place Reno Silver Sox took a 2 1/2 game lead over the Long Beach Armada into Friday's game against the Fullerton Flyers.
But in spite of rallying from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits for a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning and then turning the pitching duties over to their top reliever and then their closer, the Silver Sox gave up the lead in the seventh and the game in the ninth and fell, 6-5, to Fullerton at Peccole Park.
With Long Beach taking a 6-2 win over Yuma on Friday, the Silver Sox's lead is down to 1 1/2 games and, having won five of their last 10 coming home, they have now lost their last two games.
"Don't talk to me. Talk to the players," Silver Sox manager Les Lancaster said after taking a shower. "They know what's going on."
Asked if he thought the recent traveling had perhaps taken something out of his club, third baseman Edgar Varela, who grounded out to short with one on in the last inning to end the game, said he wasn't sure.
"Obviously, it was a long road trip," said Varela, who entered the game with a .348 batting average, tops among the Sox and good enough for fourth in the Golden Baseball League. "But you can't make excuses. Every day is a new day. We've gotta come out and be ready to play. We have to find the energy. Maybe it did (take something out of the club), maybe it didn't. You gotta bear with it and find some energy."
The Flyers had just a bit more energy than the Sox, tying the game 4-4 in the seventh when Bret Levier dropped a single into left field to bring home second baseman Gabriel Mayorga, who had reached on a double.
The fire-slinging Sevier (4-1), who took the loss, entered the game with a sparkling 0.35 earned run average, having struck out 39 batters in 40 innings of work. Sevier relieved Sox starter Carlos Chavez (1-0), who gave up three solo homers and nine hits in six innings of work and left with a 4-3 lead.
Sevier gave up the one run and three hits over two innings and closer Scott Schneider, the GBL's pitcher of the week, entered the game in the ninth. He gave up a single to Mayorga - who finished 2-for-4 and scored two runs - to open the ninth. After getting right fielder Tashi Sasa to ground out to third, Schneider hit Levier with a pitch.
Schneider struck out Garry Templeton II, but gave up a two-run double to Rich Pohle, who dropped it over center fielder Richard Giannotti's head as Fullerton took a 6-4 lead.
After Philip Grau grounded out to third to open the ninth, Giannotti singled off closer Wes Faust, who got C.J. Lang to fly out to center for the second out. In came catcher Marcus Jensen, who was hitting .333 but was 0-for-4 on the night.
Jensen hit a 2-0 offering to right center for a double to score Giannotti and cut the lead to 6-5, with Varela coming up. Biut Varela's groundout ended the game and left the Sox with a near miss.
"It happens. You want to be in that situation," said Varela, who went 2-for-5 with a run. "It just didn't work out. Our whole thing this season has been the other teams scores and we fight back. We don't give up till the end. They scored. We scored. It just wasn't enough."
Fullerton, now in a fourth-place tie with Yuma, improved to 12-15 on the year, while dropping the Sox to 18-10. The Flyers went up 2-0 in the first on back-to-back homers by Templeton (1-for-3) and Pohle (2-for-5, with 3 RBI).
Reno rallied in the bottom of the inning when Gianotti scored on an error and first baseman Doug Gredvig singled in Jensen to tie it 2-2.
Another solo homer - this one by left fielder Chad Chop - put the Flyers up 3-2 in the fourth.
A broken-bat single by second baseman Mike Done drove in Varela in the sixth and former Nevada standout Bub Madrid scored on a Jeff Groeger wild pitch to give the Silver Sox the 4-3 lead.
Groeger relieved starter Todd Gelatka, who went 5 2/3 and gave up three runs and six hits. Groeger went 2 1/3, walking two and allowing one run. Faust (3-2) got the win.
"We're still in first place," Varela said. "We've got to play like a first-place team. We can't doubt ourselves. We have to keep playing the game. With the players we have, with the players we have coming in, we're right in the hunt. We can't stress about it. We have to battle back tomorrow. It's a different game tomorrow."
Today's Reno-Fullerton game starts at 6:35 at Peccole Park. The Sox will start right-hander Hideki Nagasaka (1-0, 5.52 ERA) and the Flyers will start left-hander Matt Lincoln (1-0, 1.96 ERA).
Notes: The Silver Sox announced Friday that they released left-handed pitcher Mike McKernan (0-0). The 5-foot-11, 190-pound McKernan, of Garden Grove, Calif., pitched 16 innings, giving up 11 runs, 18 hits and 14 walks while striking out 10 in nine games.
Reno also announced the retirement of 23-year-old outfielder Caleb Maher. The 6-2, 200-pound Maher, of Ceres, Calif., played for the now defunct Mesa Miners last year and was hitting .233 this year for the Sox. In 90 at bats, Maher hit one homer and knocked in 13 RBI. No reason was given on why he retired.