Salt Lake’s thrill ride of a season finally came to a stop Monday, and, typically, nothing was for sure until the final out.
The Bees needed career days from Matt Long and Trevor Crowe — who drove in 10 runs between them in a 16-9 win over Sacramento at Spring Mobile Ballpark — to secure a winning season, and leave manager Keith Johnson happy.
“Yes, I can say that now,” Johnson said. “Yes.”
Salt Lake entered its the season-ending four-game series against the River Cats needing two victories to complete a 73-71 season. The Bees won game one, but squandered the next two.
When Hank Conger powered a two-run homer down the right-field line to cap a four-run fifth, the Bees looked like a lock at 8-4. However, it took another two-run shot by Ryan Langerhans in a five-run Salt Lake eighth to secure the victory.
“The guys came out swinging the bats well,” Johnson said. “The game got a little closer than we wanted. ... Our offense kept continuing to put up runs and we end up having a pretty good end to the season.”
In 2012, the Bees were never more than eight games better than .500 or six games worse. Salt Lake enjoyed four streaks of five victories or more.
The Bees also endured four streaks of five losses or more.
“This group we had this year, even with the ups and downs, the guys continued to play hard,” Johnson said. “Our lineup got real thin at times. Our pitching staff got real thin at times, but the guys continued to battle through it.”
Despite the team’s inconsistency in 2012, several Bees enjoyed standout seasons. Salt Lake can claim Mike Trout, who burned up the Pacific Coast League for three weeks before Los Angeles and a possible American League MVP award beckoned.
Pitcher Garrett Richards also refined his game with the Bees before spending the second half of the season with the Angels. Kole Calhoun, Salt Lake’s leading run producer, was called to the Angels three times.
Among those who stayed the entire season, Luis Jimenez and Efren Navarro were consistently good. Jimenez led all PCL third basemen with a .947 fielding percentage while hitting .309 with 37 doubles, 16 homers and 85 RBIs. He also stole 17 bags.
Navarro continued to be the best first baseman in the PCL, committing just four errors.
For some, like an emotional Doug Deeds, who capped his 2012 with five hits Monday, this may have been his final game as a professional. It was one to remember.
“It’s been a blessing to come out here and stay quasi-healthy and play with these guys,” Deeds said. “It means a lot to me and there’s a lot of guys I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
“I was just trying to soak it all up. If it’s my last day, it’s my last day, I just wanted to remember every pitch, every out, every aspect of it.”
With few exceptions, including Saturday’s rain-delayed contest, the Bees also enjoyed near-perfect weather. A season after five postponements — and many poor crowds — due to rain and snow, every game was played.
In 2012, Salt Lake enjoyed the fifth-highest attendance in the PCL, drawing more than a half-million fans, or 7,161 a game, eclipsing last year’ average of 6,438 from 437,769 spectators.
Storylines Bees 16, River Cats 9
R Salt Lake finishes with a winning record — 73-71 — for the 16th time in 19 seasons.
• Matt Long hits two homers and drives in five runs, while Trevor Crowe bangs out four hits with five RBIs.
• Salt Lake scores four runs in the fifth and five runs in the eighth to ice the victory.