Right-hander Kyle Friedrichs showed enough at short-season Vermont last year to make the Oakland Athletics believe that he was ready to move to the next level of A-ball. In the season opener for the Beloit Snappers he proved that their faith was not misguided at all. The righty went five innings, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out six to lead the Snappers to a 2-1 victory over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Friedrichs got rolling early, retiring the side in order in the first inning. Jake Drossner was able to get out of the first unscathed as well, but it was a bit of a nail-biter. Justin Higley walked to lead off the inning and stole second base. A wild pitch would move him to third, and with two outs Chris Iriart walked to put runners at the corners. Drossner settled down, however, getting Trent Gilbert to fly out to end the threat.
In the top of the second Tucker Neuhaus got the Timber Rattlers going with a one out single, but he was erased on a double-play to keep the game scoreless. The Wisconsin starter would not be so fortunate.
Beloit got a lead-off single from Skye Bolt and then Brett Siddall was hit by a pitch to put two on with no one out. Two batters later Edwin Diaz reached on an error by Neuhaus that loaded the bases. A walk to Justin Higley scored Bolt, but that looked to be all the damage that would occur when the Timber Rattlers right-hander struck out Trace Loehr. However, he could not end the threat, walking Ryan Howell to score Siddall and extend the lead to two.
That was plenty of runs for the Snappers starter. In the top of the third he walked Alan Sharkey to start the inning, but made a great play on a bunt attempt by Sthervin Matos to nail the lead runner at second. Another force play put Carlos Belonis at first, and then Troy Stokes, Jr. drew a walk to put the first runner of the game into scoring position for Wisconsin. Friedrichs remained poised, striking out Monte Harrison to end the inning and keep the score at 2-0.
The right-hander would then retire the next six batters he faced, fanning three before his day was over. For Friedrichs (1-0) it was a very impressive performance. In his five innings of work he faced 17 batters, just two over the minimum.
Dustin Driver took over in the sixth and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers were able to get to him right away. Belonis and Stokes walked to start the inning. Belonis was running on the 3-2 pitch to Stokes and the catcher’s throw was wild, allowing Belonis to move to third. With Monte Harrison at the plate Stokes stole second but, again, the throw from the catcher was wild, allowing Belonis to score to cut the lead to just one.
From there neither team could muster any offense. Drossner got into trouble in the third as well when a throwing error and a walk allowed the first two hitters for the Snappers to reach. Scott Grist came in after Drossner struck out Siddall, and he pitched extremely well. He would pitch 2.2 innings, allowing just two hits. Conor Harber pitched two perfect innings, striking out four. Nate Griep pitched the final inning for Wisconsin.
After the run scored in the third, Driver dominated the next two innings. he allowed a single in the seventh, but retired the next five batters he faced. In the top of the ninth Cody Kurz (1) issued a lead-off walk to Isan Diaz, but then struck out the final three batters of the game for his first save of the season.
It was a very unproductive day at the plate for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The lineup only mustered two hits, both by Neuhaus. Stokes drew two walks.
Siddall was 1-3 for Beloit with a run scored and a double. Bolt was 1-3 as well, with a run scored and a walk.
These two teams will continue their series tomorrow night for Game 2. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will send Marcos Diplan (0-0) to the mound versus Boomer Bielgaski for the Beloit Snappers (0-0). Game time is 6:30.
By Robert Pannier