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'You cannot leave our games early'/Portland erupts again, erasing 7-3 deficit against Chico at Walker Stadium

They did it again.

The Portland Pickles put together another late comeback on Friday night. This one beat the Chico Heat, 8-7.

Matt Starcovic, from Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, hit a sizzling, walk-off single to center field that scored the final two runs with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Amost as soon as Starcovic connected with the ball, the Pickles, who have rallied strong in their last three games (winning two), streamed out of their home dugout and across the field at Walker Stadium.

The college wood-bat team cornered Starcovic and doused him with water just after he got around first base — and just after Alec Leighton (Montana State Billings) had scored from third and Daniel Lopez (University of Portland) had raced home from second with the winning run.

"I took a pitch to see what it looked like, then I got a fastball I liked and went for it," Starcovic said. "I went up there relaxed. I was just trying to make a name for myself and win one for the team."

His screaming liner went over a leaping Chico second baseman completed the Pickles' comeback from a 7-3 deficit.

"They're trying to give me a heart attack is what I think they're trying to do," manager Jeff Lahti said with a smile.

Lahti, a reliever who played in two World Series with St. Louis and won one with the Cardinals, then recited a most appropriate baseball phrase for what had just taken place.

"It's never over till it's over," he said.

It isn't, if you're the Pickles.

"You cannot leave our games early," said Alan Miller, a Los Angeles resident who is one of the team's new owners. "This is more fun than any game at Dodger Stadium."

The other new co-owner, Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan, shared in the excitement, too. He gave high-fives to Starcovic and others and led the cheers in the postgame huddle.

Ryan had some of his football teammates on hand for the game, and the Pickles showed their appreciation for NFL players taking the time to come watch them by out-battling the defending Great West League champion Heat in the first game of a three-game series.

The clubs will meet again at 7 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday, capping the Pickles' first homestand of 2017.

"We've played some exciting ballgames," Lahti said. "You've definitely got to stay till the end to see how they turn out."

Starcovic also hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

"Just waiting for my pitch on that one, too," he said.

It was quite a night for the outfielder from North Olmstead, Ohio. He had a double, as well — and learned after the Pickles' games that the Cleveland Cavaliers had knocked off the Golden State Warriors to stay alive in the NBA Finals.

"Wow, awesome," he said. "Go, Cavs. Cavs in seven."

Renner Stecki, from Oregon City High and Clackamas Community College, and Aidan Malm (Folsom Lake College) each had an RBI double for the Pickles.

Malm's key hit came in the seventh. That inning, Portland also got an RBI single from Leighton, who promptly advanced to second base on a double steal that enabled Joey Cooper to race home from third.

No comeback would complete without some vital pitching, especially in the closing innings, and the Pickles got what they needed in that department from Matt Tomazin (Orange Coast College). He earned the win with two perfect innings of relief.

Portland improved to 5-5 (2-2 against the Heat). Chico is 6-4.

"Just an amazing night," Miller said. "Another amazing night of Pickles baseball."

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