If it appeared Sunday’s baseball game was played between two road-weary and sleep-deprived teams, that’s because it was.
And it showed in some unusual ways.
The Wild Things, who arrived in Washington yesterday at 10:30 a.m. after a nearly 11-hour bus ride from Marion, Ill., had more runs than hits.
The Normal CornBelters, who arrived at Consol Energy Park following a 12-hour bus ride from their home, left 10 men on base and blew numerous scoring opportunities, including bases-loaded opportunities in the second and third innings.
The Cornbelters slept a little better last night, thanks to a 5-3 victory over the Wild Things that kicked off a nine-game road trip.
“We’re used to (unusual plays) in this league,” said Normal manager Brooks Carey. “You never know what you’re going to see one night to the next. There are no easy wins.”
That’s what Don Goldstein found out.
The right-handed pitcher, who was making his professional debut for the Wild Things, gutted out 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs and six hits. His ability to wiggle out of those bases-loaded situations impressed Washington manager Bart Zeller.
“He did a very good job for a first outing,” he said. “He was a little nervous. He just needs to get ahead of the hitters. Pitch from behind in this league, guys are going to hit you.”
Normal starter Luis Noel was impressive, going seven innings, allowing just two hits, three earned runs and striking out eight.
Washington staked Goldstein to a 1-0 lead in the first when Stewart Ijames led off the inning with a home run. The only other hit in the game for Washington came in the fifth inning when Shain Stoner also launched a leadoff home run. It was the ninth home run of the season for both players.
The euphoria of holding a lead after Ijames’ homer was short-lived. Normal loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning but only scored one run. Goldstein walked Mike Schwartz to start the inning, then gave up three consecutive singles to right field. The last one came from Luis Parache and scored Schwartz.
In the second inning, Goldstein loaded the bases again after one out. He walked Ryan Lashley to push across Keoni Magano, who got on with an infield single.
Stoner tied the game, 2-2, with his home run to left field in the fifth.
“It was a slider, and I was just reacting,” said Stoner. “I knew it was gone when I hit it.”
Goldstein hit Lashley with a pitch to open the sixth, then gave up an RBI-triple to Parache one out later. Matt Phillips relieved Goldstein and allowed a single to T.J. Gavlik that scored Parache to give Normal a 4-2 lead.
The CornBelters made it 5-2 in the top of the seventh with the help of a bizarre play. Manago popped a high fly ball just in front of the pitching mound. First baseman Mark Samuelson called for it, but the wind sent the ball toward the third-base side of the mound and Samuelson missed it for an error.
That led to an RBI-single by Tyler Shover, who grew up near Harrisburg and played at Shippensburg University. He had 10 family members and friends attending the game.
“My parents came to see me on (their) road trip,” said Shover. “That was the only other time they had a chance to see me play. So that was a little added pressure.”
Washington made it a two-run game in the bottom of the seventh without the benefit of a hit. Samuelson walked, moved to second when Stoner was hit by a pitch, was sacrificed to third and scored on a groundout.
Washington came close to tying the game in the eighth when Ijames and C.J. Beatty sent blasts to the deepest part of centerfield only to be tracked down and caught by Oscar Garcia.
“Oscar plays centerfield like you see guys on TV play it,” said Carey. “He runs to where the ball should be. Not a lot of centerfielder are going to get to those balls. It’s little things like that that decide who wins and loses a game.”
A fan was hit in the head with a bat when Eric Arce swung and missed at a pitch in the third inning. The bat flew from his hands and bounced on the Wild Things dugout before going into the stands. The young boy was treated at his seat and appeared to be OK. … A.J. Nunziato also lost his grip on his bat in the second inning, but it ended up hitting the railing on Washington’s dugout. … Washington wore pink uniform tops for Breast Cancer Awareness Night.