It must have been quite a boring game for most of the fans in Appleton, WI on Sunday afternoon. It might have been really boring, but the home crowd left happy as their Wisconsin Timber Rattlers scored three runs early, then held on the for the 3-2 win. In between was a lot of zeros.
Right-hander Cody Ponce was making his first start for the Timber Rattlers, and his club wanted to ensure that he got off on the right-foot. Ponce retired the Beloit Snappers in order in the top of the first, and then watched his club put three runs on the board in the bottom half of the inning.
In the home half of the first, Saturday night’s hero, Brandon Diaz, walked and stole second for his 20th stolen base of the season. Two batters later Khris Davis grounded a single into left field that moved Diaz to third. Dustin DeMuth followed with a lined single that scored Diaz. The ball was mishandled by the right fielder allowed Davis to score and DeMuth to move to third. Carlos Leal then lined a double into left field, bringing home DeMuth to make it 3-0.
This had all the makings of a real slugfest, but both Ponce and Beloit starter Daniel Gossett took command of the game. Ponce gave up two walks in the second and a double in the third, but retried the side in order in the fourth. Gossett had a runner reach on an error in the third and gave up a single in the fifth. The Snappers starter retired the side in order in the second and fourth.
A pitch count limited Ponce’s first start to just 55 pitches, so David Burkhalter came on in the fifth. He pitched masterfully as well, retiring the first six hitters he faced. In the top of the seventh Burkhalter gave up a base hit to Jose Brizuela to start the inning, but a double-play eliminated the runner.
It had been a masterful first seven innings for the two Wisconsin pitchers, but in the eighth the Beloit Snappers finally got on the board. Iolana led off the inning with his first home run of the year, a deep shot over the left field wall to make it 3-1.
In the ninth things got a lot more interesting. With one out, Joe Bennie walked and Brizuela followed with a single that moved Bennie to second. That would be it for Burkhalter. Tyler Linehan came in and walked Sandber Pimentel before striking out Justin Higley. With the bases loaded the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers turned to Gian Rizzo. Rizzo hit Iolana Akau to drive home Bennie, but got Shawn Duinkerk to pop out to end the game.
Ponce pitched 4 innings, allowing just 1 hit and 2 walks, with no runs allowed. He struck out 3. Burkhalter (2-5) went 4.1, allowing 3 hits, 2 runs and a walk. He struck out 3. Rizzo earned his second save of the season. Gossett (3-8) pitched really well, but took the loss.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers welcome the Kane County Cougars to town tomorrow evening. Zach Hirsch (2-4, 2.98) goes to the hill for Wisconsin.
By Robert Pannier