By Chris Dugan
The sniper-like action early Saturday night emboldened Wild Things starting pitcher Troy Marks and his teammates with confidence.
If Marks wanted to throw the baseball two inches under the batter’s hands on the inside corner of the plate, then it happened. If Marks thought about a tricky off-speed pitch just low and outside, then it was no problem.
And, chances were, Marks was getting a swing and a miss, too.
Making his third appearance with the Wild Things, Marks took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and threw 7 1/3 strong innings in Washington’s 5-2 win over the Frontier Greys at Consol Energy Park.
Marks (3-0), who was acquired two weeks ago from the Vallejo Admirals of the independent Pacific Association, gave up three hits, struck out nine and did not walk a batter. The outing followed his seven-inning shutout with 11 strikeouts against Evansville in the first game of a doubleheader Monday.
With each fling of Marks’ right arm, fans who have followed the Wild Things all season had to be thinking two things: 1. No-hitter. 2. Potential difference maker.
Marks (6-5, 210) had that kind of dominating stuff. He retired 17 of the first 18 Greys hitters. The only player to reach base was Chris Ellison when Washington shortstop Ryan Kresky dropped a routine popup for an error. It was only the second error by Kresky all season. Ellison was later erased on a double play as Marks faced the minimum number of hitters over the first six innings.
“When you can throw four pitches for strikes like he was, it’s always an advantage for the pitcher, even if he’s new to the league,” said Washington’s Bob Bozzuto, who was promoted from coach to manager about 90 minutes before the game started.
Jon Dziomba led off the seventh with a bloop into right centerfield that fell between second baseman Garrett Rau and charging right fielder Jose Dore for a double. Rau almost made a lunging catch with his back to the infield.
Dzombia scored on a two-out single by Ellison that cut the Wild Things’ lead to 5-1. Marks left in the eighth after giving up a one-out double to Michael Vaughn.
Bozzuto is hoping that the 6-5, 210-pound Marks can be the difference maker and push the Wild Things over the top in a crowded East Division playoff race.
“He can be, if he’s still here,” Bozzuto said, hinting that Marks could be attractive to a major league organization.
With the win, the Wild Things moved back into sole possession of first place in the East Division, one game ahead of Evansville and two in front of Southern Illinois. Evansville lost 7-5 at Lake Erie while Southern Illinois was edged by River City, 5-4.
The game was not Marks’ first outing this season in Washington. After being released by a team in the independent Can-Am League early this spring, Marks was told by a Boston Red Sox scout to attend a tryout camp in Washington. The Wild Things liked what they saw but wanted Marks to be a starter.
“I had been working out as a reliever for the Can-Am team, so Washington told me to go (to the Pacific Association) and work on getting my pitch count up,” Marks explained. “They said they’d call when they needed me.”
That was before a nine-game road trip that started July 22 in Normal. Marks won his first start there, then shut out Evansville.
“I could have stayed (with Vallejo), but I realized the opportunity would be better for me here. The competition is better and the league is scouted more,” Marks explained.
Perhaps inspired by the news that Bozzuto had been named manager, the Wild Things scored all their runs in the first inning.
Danny Poma led off with a walk against Greys pitcher Kevin Picht (2-6) and scored on Ryan Kresky’s double. A single by C.J. Beatty and Scott Kalamar’s sacrifice fly brought home Kresky.
First baseman William Beckwith then hit a two-run homer to right field to make the score 4-0. It was Beckwith’s sixth home run in his last 12 games.
Singles by Carter Bell and Garrett Rau, and a fielder’s choice grounder by Jim Vahalik, drove in Bell with the inning’s fifth run.
That was about all the offense for the Wild Things. Washington was held to one hit the rest of the way – Kresky’s second double of the game in the second inning – and could not take advantage of five walks and two hit batsmen.
The Greys pulled to within 5-2 in the ninth and loaded the bases with two outs. Closer Jonathan Kountis, however, got the game’s final two outs for his league-leading 24th save.
“We left a lot of people on base. That’s one area in which we need to get better,” Bozzuto said. “That’s a very good team we’re playing. They battle you the entire time.”
The start of the game was delayed 30 minutes because of rain. … A no-hitter has never been thrown in a Frontier League game at Consol Energy Park. … Kountis’ 24 saves are four shy of the league record. He has 42 career saves, which ranks fifth on the league’s all-time list. … The Greys are the league’s traveling team. They play all 96 games on the road. … Since starting the season 9-31, the Greys have gone 14-13.