Bums get defensive against Wild Things

June 18, 2013

Baseball boxscores are made for hitting and pitching.

You can find runs, RBI, extra-base hits and pitching totals in a boxscore.

What it doesn’t show is defense. There is no place in a boxscore to show Traverse City left fielder Carlo Testa throwing out a Washington baserunner at third base with no outs. There is no place to find Beach Bums shortstop Taylor Wrenn snatching a line drive off the top of the turf with a runner on third base and only one out, preventing a run from scoring.

And there are only small mentions of Traverse City turning two double plays and throwing out the leading basestealer in the league. What the boxscore doesn’t show is how many runs those plays might have prevented.

Yet each of those defensive plays were pivotal Tuesday night in Traverse City’s 6-2 victory over the Wild Things at Consol Energy Park.

And those stellar defensive plays have been rather routine for Traverse City’s defense during the Beach Bums’ current six-game winning streak that has moved them into second place in the Frontier League’s East Division.

“I’m not going to lie. Our defense has been really good,” Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn said. “We had reached a point where our offense wasn’t what it needed to be – we have two guys still out of the lineup – so we’ve had to play good defense.”

The Beach Bums certainly did on this night. They turned two inning-ending double plays, one with a Washington runner on third base. Wrenn’s backhanded snag of A.J. Nunziato’s line drive in the fifth inning came with one out and a runner on third base, and the Wild Things didn’t score in the inning. And Testa threw out Darian Sandford, who attempted to stretch a double into a triple with no outs in the sixth and Traverse City leading 4-0.

Traverse City catcher Marcus Nidiffer even threw out Sandford attempting to steal second base to end the third inning. It was only the fourth time Sandford has been caught stealing in 30 attempts.

There were a few other difficult defensive plays that the Beach Bums made look rather routine, which benefitted starter Jacob Clem (4-3), who scattered eight hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings.

“A couple of defensive plays took us out of an inning and completed their inning,” Washington manager Bart Zeller said.

And Washington, which entered the game with the best fielding percentage in the league, had two errors that proved costly.

Wrenn blooped a one-out single to left field in the first inning and the ball bounced past outfielder Rogelio Noris for a two-base error. Wrenn eventually scored the game’s first run. With two outs in the third, Washington third baseman Jovan Rosa couldn’t come up with Jose Vargas’ hard smash, which went for an error. Chase Burch followed with a two-run homer off Gary Lee (2-2) that gave the Beach Bums a 3-0 lead.

“There were a couple of mistakes early in the game. … Our pitchers did not do a bad job,” Zeller said. “Plus, we had second and third and didn’t score, and a runner on third with one out and didn’t score. If we score those times, 4-0 is now 4-3 and you do things differently.”

Wrenn tripled into the right-field corner in the fifth inning to drive in the Beach Bums’ fourth run. The Wild Things, who have lost four of five, finally broke through in the sixth when Gus Benusa’s single pushed across Mark Samuelson and Stewart Ijames.

Traverse City secured the win when Wrenn hit a two-run homer in the ninth off reliever Matt Phillips. They were the first runs Phillips allowed in 11 appearances.

“Traverse City is not an aggressive team in terms of hitting and running. They swing the bats and make you play defense,” Zeller said. “They have three or four guys who can really swing the bats.”

Extra bases

The first four batters in Traverse City’s lineup combined to go 8-for-19 with two homers and six runs. The bottom five hitters were 0-for-17. … Sandford and Ijames each had two hits including a double. … Washington released outfielder Andrew Heck and relief pitcher Michael Hepple, and signed right-handed pitcher Jordan Elliott. Heck was Washington’s leading hitter last season with a .310 batting average, 14 doubles and 20 stolen bases. This year, he was batting only .182 (6-for-33) and did not have an at-bat in consecutive games since a June 2 doubleheader at Windy City. Hepple had pitched 11 innings and had a 2.45 ERA. Elliott was 9-2 with a 2.77 ERA in 13 starts this spring for Delaware State University. He struck out 73 in 91 innings and opponents batted only .219 against him.

Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for more than 30 years and has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1986. He was named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger in Waynesburg. He is a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. If you have an idea for a story, send him an email at dugan@observer-reporter.com.

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