Before hard-hitting outfielder Stewart Ijames had his contract sold to the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday afternoon, Scott Kalamar was nothing more than a platoon outfielder for the Wild Things.
The left-handed hitting Kalamar, who is in his second year with Washington, would start against right-handed pitchers and sit against lefties. Only 10 of Kalamar’s first 125 at-bats this season came against left-handers.
But with Ijames gone, Kalamar’s playing time, particularly against left-handed pitchers, is likely to increase significantly.
Kalamar came through against a left-hander in the eighth inning Saturday night, delivering a game-winning RBI-single off River City reliever Paul Hvozdovic as the Wild Things rallied to defeat the Rascals, 3-2.
The victory, combined with Southern Illinois’ 5-4 win in 10 innings at Evansville, gives the first-place Wild Things a three-game lead over both the Miners and Otters in the Frontier League’s East Division.
Kalamar’s hit – his second off a lefty in the game – scored Garrett Rau from third base and came one batter after C.J. Beatty drove in Danny Poma with an RBI-groundout that tied the score at 2-2. Kalamar had three of Washington’s seven hits in the game.
Matt Purnell (4-1), the fourth of five Washington pitchers, faced only one batter but was the winner. Purnell struck out Blaise Fernandez to end the eighth inning with River City leading 2-1.
Jonathan Kountis pitched the ninth inning and set the Washington single-season record with his 20th save.
River City reliever Nick Kennedy (2-1) was the loser.
The Wild Things rallied in the eight when Poma and Rau hit one-out singles and advanced on a passed ball that led to Washington’s final run being unearned.
For six innings, Washington starter Zac Fuesser and River City’s Kyle Brady were locked in a pitchers’ duel in which baserunners were few and far between. Fuesser allowed four hits over 6 2/3 shutout innings. It was the longest outing of the season for Fuesser, who began the season in Washington’s bullpen.
Fuesser exited leading 1-0 with River City’s Hector Crespo on first base with two outs. Pat Butler relieved Fuesser and gave up an infield single to Blaise Fernandez, who was released earlier in the day by Washington and signed by River City. Fernandez’s single was hit up the middle and struck Butler in the foot.
Al Yevoli then relieved Butler, and after giving up a double steal, struck out Eric Williams as River City stranded two runners in scoring position.
The Wild Things and Yevoli couldn’t work out of another jam in the eighth. River City catcher Josh Ludy, the Frontier League leader in extra-base hits, swung late on a fastball from Yevoli and hit it to the right-field corner for a one-out double. Tyler Zupcic pinch-ran for Ludy and moved to third base on a groundout by Saxon Butler.
First baseman Zach Komentani then grounded a single past Yevoli and up the middle to drive in Zupcic and tie the score at 1-1.
Crespo followed with another single up the middle, and Evan Crawford beat out an infield roller to shortstop to load the bases. Yevoli then got ahead in the count against left fielder Brian Hansen, who entered the night batting only .182, but the second pitch of the at-bat was a fastball that rode inside and hit Hansen, forcing in Kometani with the go-ahead run.
Washington had taken a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning against Brady, who allowed only three hits and one walk over 5 2/3 strong innings. Brady was making only his second start of the season after 15 relief appearances.
Carter Bell singled off Brady to start the fifth and moved up a base when William Beckwith grounded out. Three batters later, Jim Vahalik looped a single over leaping River City shortstop Johnny Morales as Bell raced home with the game’s initial run.
Prior to the game, Washington released Fernandez, a rookie infielder from George Mason University who was hitting .188 in 32 at-bats. Fernandez, however, was signed by River City later in the day and started at third base for the Rascals. Because of injuries and players signed to affiliated baseball, River City was down to the league minimum 22 active players and did not have a backup position player in uniform Friday night. … To fill Fernandez’s roster spot, Washington signed outfielder Jose Dore, a four-year pro who was drafted in the eighth round in 2010 out of high school in Florida by the San Diego Padres. Dore played three years in the Padres’ system and one with the Chicago Cubs. He was a teammate of Yevoli last year with Kane County of the Class A Midwest League. … Washington has 23 active players, one under the league maximum. … The Wild Things wore uniforms with pink sleeves and trim for Breast Cancer Awareness Night.