Last season began badly for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, as they were 0-6 early on. The Burlington Bees played a big role in that start, taking the first three games of the season to set the tone for Wisconsin early. The Timber Rattlers will not start the season with six-straight losses, but the Bees are proving to be as big of a nemesis this year, winning the first game of their three-game series on a walk-off single in the ninth by Zach Welz to win 4-3.
The Timber Rattlers got off on the right foot, taking the early lead with a run in the top of the first. Troy Stokes, Jr. walked to get it started and moved to second with his third stolen base of the year. Two batters later Isan Diaz doubled to deep right field to score Stokes easily, and stake Wisconsin to a 1-0 lead.
In the fourth they would extend that lead. Mitch Ghelfi singled to start the inning and Sthervin Matos followed by drawing a walk to put two on with no one out. Tucker Neuhaus then grounded to first where Jared Walsh stepped on the bag and threw to second to try to get the double-play. Unfortunately, the ball hit Matos in the back and deflected away. That allowed Ghelfi to score, but Matos got caught in a rundown trying to get to make it to third for the double-play. That made the score 2-0.
Wisconsin starter Miguel Diaz had been awesome through the first four innings. He had retired the Bees in order in three of those innings, with the home team only getting two singles in the third.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Burlington Bees were able to cut the lead in half. With one out, Walsh made up for his earlier throw by leading off with a single. Angelo Amendolare then followed with a double that brought Walsh all the way around to score to make it 2-1.
In the seventh, the Timber Rattlers extended their lead back to two runs again. Neuhaus walked to get the frame started, and Luis Aviles followed by grounding into a force out. After Aviles stole second base, Carlos Belonis flew out to center field with Aviles taking third on the play. Stokes then delivered a clutch two out double that scored Aviles and the lead was back to two.
That would be the lead heading into the bottom of the ninth as Nate Griep looked to close it out. Tanner Lubach led off with a single, but Griep was able to retire the next two hitters. That brought Walsh to the plate, who delivered a single to keep the Bees’ chances alive. Amendolare then drew a walk and Josh Delph followed with a hard single to left that plated both Lubach and Walsh to tie the game.
In came Scott Grist looking to try to get the final out and extend the game into extra innings. Welz would be the hero, however, singling into left field. The play at the plate was close but Amendolare scored to give the Bees the 4-3 victory.
Griep (0-1) wound up taking the loss and Jared Ruxer (2-0) was the winner.
Four players on the Burlington Bees had two hits. That included Welz, Walsh, Amendolare and Delph. The latter group of three combined to go 6-11 from the No. 7, 8, and 9 places in the order. Walsh scored two runs and Delph drove in two.
Jake Gatewood had two hits for Wisconsin.
These same two teams will go at it on Tuesday night. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will send Jake Drossner (0-1, 0.00) to the mound against Jose Rodriguez (0-0, 0.00) for the Bees. Game time is 6:30.
By Robert Pannier