Wild Things’ Sunday struggles continue

July 20, 2014

Call it the Sunday Struggles.

Or the Day Game Doldrums.

Whatever the name is for the affliction that has stricken the Wild Things, it was a serious case Sunday in an 8-2 loss to the River City Rascals at Consol Energy Park.

Though Washington leads the Frontier League’s East Division with a 34-20 record, the Wild Things are only 2-8 in Sunday games, including 1-5 at home. And many of those losses have been one-sided contests, such as this one against the Rascals, the top-hitting team in the league.

River City scored eight runs over the first two innings, including four on one swing of the bat by first baseman Zach Kometani.

Washington coach Bob Bozzuto shrugged off the Sunday record as a “statistical oddity.” That’s easy to do when the losses come in the final game of a three-game series after you’ve won the first two contests, as the Wild Things have done leading up to many of those Sunday setbacks.

“Sometimes you just have to tip the cap to the other team. They came out aggressive and played well today,” Bozzuto said.

River City scored one time in the first inning against Washington starter Shawn Blackwell (6-2) and broke open the game with a seven-run second. Kometani capped the big inning with his seventh home run of the season, a grand slam that clanked off the scoreboard in left centerfield and made the score 8-0.

Blackwell, who played in the Frontier League All-Star Game last week, lasted only 1 2/3 innings.

“Shawn wasn’t his normal self today,” Bozzuto said. “We also didn’t make a couple of plays behind him.”

The Rascals took a 1-0 lead as Evan Williams started the game by drawing a four-pitch walk, Josh Ludy singled and Saxon Butler delivered an run-scoring double.

River City used three singles and two sacrifices – one a squeeze bunt by Williams – to push its lead to 3-0 with two outs in the top of the second. The third out of the inning was difficult to get.

Johnny Morales hit a hard line drive that glanced off the glove of second baseman Sam Montgomery and was scored a single as Bryan Hansen crossed home plate with the Rascals’ fourth run.

Ludy was hit by a 1-2 pitch and Butler walked to load the bases. Kometani then hit a high 2-0 pitch for the grand slam.

“This was a good game for us after losing the last two nights,” River City manager Steve Brook said. “I was happy to see us come out swinging.”

Washington, meanwhile, was held to three hits by six River City pitchers. Starter Tim Koons (2-2) went 5 1/3 innings and gave up both runs.

Scott Kalmar drove in each Washington run, one on a solo homer in the fourth and another with a sacrifice fly that scored catcher Michael Allen in the sixth.

Washington relievers Tyler Elrod and Matt Sergey combined for 7 1/3 shutout innings but the Wild Things’ hitters couldn’t generate enough offense to fuel a comeback. Sergey threw three hitless innings and struck out four.

“Tyler Elrod and Matt Sergey did an outstanding job of shutting the door. It was very good to see those seven zeroes in a row on the scoreboard,” Bozzuto said. “If we could have gotten a hit here or there, it’s 8-4 or 8-5 and maybe it becomes an uncomfortable eighth and ninth inning.”

For injury-riddled River City, which had eight different players score a run, the win is momentum to take into a doubleheader tonight at Rockford.

“We haven’t had a whole lot of happy bus rides,” Brook said. “We’ve struggled in Game 3s.”

The Wild Things will embark on their longest road trip of the season, a nine-game swing in seven days, beginning with a doubleheader Tuesday at Normal. They also will play at Southern Illinois and Evansville, the two teams directly behind them in the standings.

“Every time you go on the road, you must be focused,” Bozzuto said. “This is a crazy trip because it starts with a doubleheader and ends with a doubleheader. All games are important, but nine games in seven days is different for us.”

Extra bases

Prior to the game, catcher Maxx Garrett was placed on the 7-day disabled list with an oblique strain and Allen was re-signed. Allen began the season with Washington and played in three games before being released. He signed with Normal and played seven games for the CornBelters before being released again. Washington also activated shortstop Ryan Kresky from the 7-day DL. Kresky has been sidelined since June 15 because of a sprained wrist.

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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