by Mike Potter
DBAP/DURHAM It’s the opening game of the Durham Bulls’ four-game series against the Norfolk Tides, and club management seems absolutely bound and determined to get this one in tonight.
It’s the club’s annual “Negro League Night,” in which a number of hometown African American men who played semi-pro ball 50 years ago are introduced in pregame ceremonies and then the Bulls and their opponents play in gray or white replica uniforms from the old Negro Leagues.
The Bulls are back from splitting a four-game road series at Lehigh Valley, and tied with the Gwinnett Braves atop the International League’s South Division.
The game is a near advance sellout, but Mother Nature isn’t cooperating. There’s a record pregame rain delay of 3:09 before southpaw Alex Torres (2-4, 3.88) fires his first pitch for the Bulls. Rick VandenHurk (2-7, 5.28) will go for Norfolk.
The evening turns out to be a survival test, with Norfolk winning 5-4 in a game that ends at 12:50 a.m.
Norfolk gets to Torres for three in the first. Matt Angle draws a leadoff walk, and then Jake Fox draws a two-out walk before Josh Bell launches the next pitch high over the Blue Monster wall in left to make it 3-0.
The Bulls rally with one out in the fifth, getting back-to-back homers from Chris Carter and Jose Lobaton.
Norfolk adds two in the sixth. Fox hits a one-out single, followed by back-to-back one-out doubles from former Bulls Rhyne Hughes and Nick Green.
But the Bulls keep coming. They cut the lead to 5-3 on Carter’s sacrifice fly with two out in the sixth.
And they cut it to 5-4 in the eighth, as Ray Olmedo hits a one-out double and scores on Dan Johnson’s two-out single.
Bell’s homer leads Norfolk’s seven-hit attack. VandenHurk gets a quality start, going six innings and allowing three runs on five hits with two strikeouts against one walk.
Carter finishes with the homer, a single and the sac fly for two RBI.
They said it …
Bulls manager Charlie Montoyo: “We played pretty well for a team that got back from an all-night trip at eight o’clock in the morning and had to wait until 10 o’clock to play. I thought we played great. We had a chance up until the end.”
Carter: “I think we showed a lot of heart. It was one of our tougher travel days yesterday. It was kind of different, waiting around and starting the game so late, but I think you saw what kind of fight this team has. We didn’t pull it out, but we never gave up.”
What does it all mean?
That the Bulls aren’t unbeatable, but are pretty good at showing resilience after an all-night bus trip from Pennsylvania.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Bulls: Lost 1.
Norfolk: Won 4.
Bulls (Brian Baker 5-3, 4.80) vs. Norfolk (Chris Tillman 0-1, 3.48)