Fuesser delivers Wild Things to victory

July 11, 2014
Florence’s Ben Cline, left, and the Wild Thing’s CJ Beatty, right, both look at the umpire as they wait for a decision on a close play at second base in the third inning of Friday’s game at Consol Energy Park. The umpire ruled Beatty out to end the inning. . - Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

Despite having some impressive statistics, Wild Things starting pitcher Zac Fuesser didn’t make the East Division team for next week’s Frontier League All-Star game.

Fuesser, however, turned in an all-star-caliber outing Friday night and Washington hit two home runs in a 3-2 victory over Florence before a crowd of 3,125 at Consol Energy Park.

Fuesser, a left-hander who spent five years in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system, threw six shutout innings, allowing only two hits, in his sixth start of the season. Fuesser lowered his ERA to a stellar 2.02.

“Fuesser did a great job. He was in command the whole time,” Washington manager Bart Zeller said. “He kept the ball down and got us to the bullpen.”

Fuesser, who began the night sixth in the league in ERA, said he wasn’t disappointed with not being selected to the all-star team. He was more concerned about pitching through the sixth inning, something he had not done in his last two starts, including July 5 at Florence, when he went only 5 1/3 innings.

“It is what it is,” Fuesser said about the all-star snub. “I’ve been in a few all-star games in my time. … I didn’t take away anything from that last start except that I didn’t have my best stuff. I came to the field ready to pitch tonight.”

Fuesser threw only 81 pitches on the muggy night. He allowed a pair of baserunners in both the second and sixth innings but escaped unscathed. The York, S.C., native helped himself in the second inning by picking Chance Ross off second base.

“That was planned,” Fuesser said. “(Shortstop) Garrett Rau and I had it planned.”

Fuesser also picked Florence’s Ryan Solberg off first base in the fifth inning.

“That one wasn’t planned. I just noticed that the runner’s weight had shifted a little toward second base from the last two pitches, so I decided to make a throw over there,” Fuesser explained.

Washington had only five hits but received just enough offense from designated hitter Scott Kalamar and right fielder Stewart Ijames to win the game.

Kalamar singled in the first inning off Florence starter Casey Henn (3-4), stole second base, moved up on a fly ball and scored when Ijames fought off an inside pitch and muscled it into shallow right field for the game’s first run.

Kalamar gave Washington a 2-0 lead when he hit his third home run of the season, a solo shot to right-centerfield in the fifth inning.

Ijames hit his 14th homer of the year, a solo blast to rightfield off reliever Ed Kohout in the bottom of the eighth. It was an important insurance run because Florence, which had won five of six games against Washington this season in Kentucky, scored twice in the top of the ninth off Wild Things closer Jonathan Kountis.

Two walks started the Florence rally, and a single by Ross and Solberg’s sacrifice fly made it 3-1. Rob Kelly’s single pulled the Freedom to within 3-2 and put runners on first and third with one out.

Ross was injured rounding third base on Kelly’s hit and had to be replaced by pinch-runner Gaby Juarbo, a catcher who was activated off the disabled list earlier in the day.

Ben Kline then hit a slow chopper to third baseman Carter Bell, who threw to the plate in time to get Juarbo, who tried to barrel over Washington catcher Jim Vahalik.

“We had talked about possibly trying to turn two on a ground ball, but Bell did the right thing by going home for the out,” Zeller said.

Kountis then got Michael Wilson to fly out to left field to end the game.

After Fuesser exited after six, relievers Pat Butler and Al Yevoli each threw a scoreless inning.

“When Zac came into the dugout after the sixth, he was gassed,” Zeller said. “He did his job. He got us to the bullpen. Butler and Yevoli each did a good job and Kountis got us out of it in the ninth.”

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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