The Frontier League regular season is one-third complete for the Wild Things.
They have to be happy with an overall record of 20-12 – the third-best through 32 games in franchise history – and their first-place position in the East Division, but the Wild Things have to be feeling like their season is beginning to take on the feel of a rollercoaster ride.
One day the Wild Things are up. The next day, they’re down.
The Wild Things’ game Saturday night against the Normal CornBelters took a sharp downward turn in the middle innings and they were sent to a 9-4 defeat at Consol Energy Park.
Washington is 6-7 in the last 13 games.
The loss put a damper on an exciting performance by Washington left fielder C.J. Beatty, who went 3-for-3 with a solo homer in the fourth inning, a double high off the centerfield wall in the sixth and a two-run homer to right centerfield in the eighth. Beatty reached base in all four plate appearances. He drew a four-pitch walk in the first inning.
The two home runs give Beatty 10 for the season and moves him back into the league lead in the category.
Even with Beatty’s big night, the momentum from Washington’s series-opening 5-3 victory Friday night lasted only three innings. That was about the time the CornBelters started breaking open the game by scoring eight runs over the middle three innings and knocking out Wild Things starting pitcher Alex Kaminsky (1-2).
Normal’s Cullen Babin and Sam Judah, the Frontier League’s Pitcher and Hitter of the Week, respectively, for last week, turned back the clock on the Wild Things.
The bearded Babin (3-0) allowed only five hits over 7 2/3 innings. He struck out four. In his last start before Saturday, Babin threw a one-hitter against the Greys.
Judah hit a two-run homer in the fifth inning that gave Normal a 5-1 lead. The CornBelters’ left fielder, Judah was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and fell a triple shy of hitting for the cycle.
Normal built a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning and did so quickly. Mike Swartz was hit by a pitch to start the inning and on the next three pitches from Kaminsky, Judah doubled off the center-field wall, Richard Lucas singled and Pat McKenna doubled.
After Beatty homered in the bottom of the third, Judah answered with his home run just inside the left-field foul pole to give Normal a 5-1 advantage.
The CornBelters added three more runs in the sixth off Kaminsky and reliever Zach LeBarron, who was pitching in relief for the second consecutive night. The lead grew to 9-1 in the seventh when Normal manufactured a run, getting singles from Judah and McKenna, a passed ball and Ozney Guillen’s sacrifice fly.
The Wild Things made it interesting in the eighth and had Normal scrambling to bring in closer Alan Oaks. Babin retired the first two Washington hitters in the eighth before Scott Kalamar dropped a single into left field and Beatty hit his second home run, a high drive to right centerfield that cut Normal’s lead to 9-3.
Babin should have had an opportunity for a third consecutive complete game but the CornBelters committed consecutive two-base errors that pushed across Washington’s final run and continued the eighth inning. Right fielder Mike Micowski misplayed Ijames’ fly ball, and Carter Bell’s ground ball to shortstop was thrown away, allowing a run to score.
The Wild Things placed shortstop Ryan Kresky on the 7-day disabled list retroactive to Wednesday. ... Washington infielder Garrett Rau pitched a scoreless ninth inning. It was the second time Rau, who spent two seasons as a pitcher in the Boston Red Sox system, has pitched in relief. ... Micowski left the game two batters after Beatty’s second home run. He ran hard into the outfield wall while tracking the ball as it left the park. ... Washington entered the game with the best defense in the league. The Wild Things lead the league in fielding percentage (.985) and double plays (40), and their 17 errors are the fewest in the league.