Sunday again no fun day for Thing

June 15, 2014

The majority of teams in the Frontier League were given a break by the schedulemaker – no games on Mondays during the first half of the season.

If the East Division-leading Wild Things were instead given Sundays off, then they might be lapping the competition. Sunday baseball hasn’t exactly agreed with Washington.

Joliet built an early lead and then used a three-run eighth to defeat the Wild Things 6-2 Sunday at Consol Energy Park. The Slammers managed to avoid both a series and season sweep by the Wild Things.

It was the fourth Sunday in a row that Washington (18-9) has lost a game, though it split a doubleheader seven days earlier at Rockford. The Wild Things are 1-4 on Sundays and 17-5 the rest of the week.

“Maybe there was an emotional drain after a big emotional win,” Washington manager Bart Zeller said, referring to the Wild Things’ 6-5 come-from-behind win Saturday night when rookie Connor Lewis hit a game-winning two-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

“It wasn’t because of a lack of effort. We played hard. We just swung at some bad pitches that took us out of some innings.”

Joliet forged a 2-1 lead in the third inning, tacked on a run when Grant DeBruin homered in the sixth and broke the game open in the eighth.

Washington was unable to maximize a golden opportunity in the first inning and it had the Wild Things playing catch-up most of the day. Washington loaded the bases with one out but pushed across only one run.

Joliet starter Jake Hermsen (1-0), who was pitching on only three days rest, hit three of the first five Washington batters and gave up a single to C.J. Beatty. However, the Wild Things scored only one run, that when Carter Bell was plunked with a pitch with the bases loaded.

Hermsen got out of the jam when he induced a double-play grounder off the bat of J.C. Brandmaier.

“We had a chance to break it open,” Zeller said. “We had the right guys up. When you have the bases loaded early and only score one run, it’s like a victory for the other team.”

Joliet manager Jeff Isom agreed. His team had suffered consecutive walk-off losses to the Wild Things and getting out of the first inning with only minor damage was a boost to his pitcher’s confidence. Hermsen went on to throw five strong innings, allowing only four hits and the first-inning run.

“It wasn’t a good start for us. We were fortunate that we didn’t let it get away from us in the first inning,” Isom said. “The one thing we’ve been doing is allowing big innings.”

The Slammers took a 2-1 lead in the third, and in the process proved that baseball is a game of inches.

Tyler Grogg, the Slammers’ No. 9 hitter, began the inning against Washington starter Alex Kaminsky (1-1) by rolling a double inches inside the third-base bag. After a sacrifice bunt, Marquis Riley hit a long drive that Washington center fielder Danny Poma got his glove on as he jumped and crashed into the wall in right centerfield. The impact, however, jarred the ball out of Poma’s glove and Riley ended up on third base.

Russell Moldenhauer followed with a groundout that scored Riley and gave Joliet a 2-1 lead.

Kaminsky, who was activated from the disabled list to make the start, retired nine of 10 Joliet batters until DeBruin hit a solo homer in the sixth, his second homer in as many days.

Kaminsky pitched well, allowing seven hits and three runs over seven innings. He did not issue a walk and struck out five.

The Slammers scored three runs in the eight against reliever Devin Malone, getting run-scoring hits from DeBruin and Adam Giacalone and Jose Garcia’s sacrifice fly.

Isom brought in closer Jordan Wellander in the sixth inning after not using him with a one-run lead in the ninth Saturday night. Wellander finished the game and earned a rare four-inning save.

“The plan was for him to pitch only two innings, but he was getting outs quickly,” Isom explained. “He also was telling me to keep him in so he can get the save he should have had Saturday.”

Wellander retired the first nine batters he faced before Stewart Ijames led off the ninth with a home run, his seventh of the season, which tied him with Beatty for the league lead.

“The bottom line is you can’t win games with only six hits,” Zeller said. “Our bats have been lethargic lately. When we’ve had a chance to put our hands on the opponent’s throat and put the game out reach, we haven’t been able to do it. You can’t depend on late-inning scoring every night. We have to generate something early.”

Extra bases

Washington infielder Garrett Rau, who spent two years as a pitcher in the Boston Red Sox system, threw a scoreless ninth inning. Rau started at second base and had a double. … Zeller said first baseman William Beckwith was put on the 14-day DL because of a knee injury.

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

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