Beatty’s blast sparks Things in heated victory

July 12, 2014

C.J. Beatty hit a two-run homer and Washington’s bullpen threw five shutout innings Saturday night as the Wild Things erased a four-run deficit and defeated the Florence Freedom 5-4 at Consol Energy Park.

Beatty’s home run scored Garrett Rau, capped a four-run fifth inning and gave the Wild Things the 5-4 lead.

Zach LeBarron (1-2), the second of four Washington pitchers, was the winner, throwing three shutout innings. LeBarron, who entered the night with a 7.04 ERA, retired nine of the 10 batters he faced and struck out four.

“I probably had better stuff tonight than in some other games,” said LeBarron, who is working his way back from offseason surgery. “I felt good. Getting ahead of hitters had been a problem for me but tonight I was working ahead and attacking the strike zone.”

Matt Purnell struck out two of the three batters he faced in the eighth, and Jonathan Kountis pitched the ninth for his 19th save, which ties the franchise single-season record. B.J. Borsa also had 19 saves in 2004.

Florence put the potential tying run on second base with no outs in the top of the ninth, when designated hitter Rob Kelly led off with a double to the wall in right field. Kelly was replaced by pinch-runner Gaby Juarbe, and third baseman Ben Kline followed by hitting hard line drive directly at left fielder Scott Kalamar. Juarbe misjudged the distance on the line drive and was running to third base when Kalamar made the catch and threw to second base for an easy double play.

Kountis then struck out Michael Wilson to end the game.

The game became intense after an incident in the third inning.

Washington catcher Jim Vahalik was upset Friday night when Juarbe went shoulder-first into him when the latter was thrown out at home plate in the top of the ninth inning. In Vahalik’s first at-bat Saturday, the pitch from Florence starter Peter Gehle (3-3) sailed behind Vahalik’s head but struck his bat and went for a foul ball.

Washington starter Tyler Elrod threw the second pitch of the top of the fourth behind Florence’s Joe Staley and home plate umpire Matt Neader issued a warning to both teams. Moments later there was a disturbance in the Washington dugout and several people after the game said it involved two Wild Things coaches but they did elaborate on what sparked the incident.

The Wild Things players held a meeting in right field shortly after the game. No coaches were involved in the meeting.

Florence forged a 4-0 lead on a pair of two-run innings against Elrod, who was making his first start of the season after eight relief appearances. Elrod breezed through the first two innings, then gave up a two-run single to Cole Miles in the third and another to Adam Taylor in the fourth.

Washington started its comeback in the bottom of the fourth, when right fielder Stewart Ijames hit his 15th home run, a solo shot that tied him for the league lead in homers.

Blaise Fernandez started Washington’s four-run fifth with a leadoff infield single. One out later, Sam Montgomery, the No. 9 batter in the order, laced a run-scoring double to left centerfield. Montgomery made it 4-3 when he raced home on Garrett Rau’s second double of the game. That set up Beatty’s two-run shot to left field that gave Washington the lead.

It was Beatty’s 11th home run of the season and first since June 21.

“This was a good win because everyone played well,” LeBarron said. “We’re up 2-0 in the series with a chance to sweep and go into the all-star break on a good note.”

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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