The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers got off to a great start on Sunday, winning their home opener in the first game of a double-header. Troy Stokes, Jr. and Trucker Neuhaus led the way in the 4-2 win, but the second game was to be a different story, as the Beloit Snappers took a 4-1 lead into the bottom half of the last inning, and then held off a feverish attack to win 4-3.
Game 1 was a makeup after Saturday’s home opener was washed out by cold and snow. It looked like it may be a tough day to get this contest in as well, as temperatures hovered around 40 degrees at game time. However, the game went off without a hitch.
Both pitchers looked good through the first two innings of the game. Jon Perrin (1-0) started for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and looked sharp early on, retiring the side in order in the first two frames. Edwin Diaz led off the third by reaching on an error, but he was left stranded at third.
James Naile (0-1) also looked good early on. He allowed a leadoff single in the first, but worked himself out of a runner on second and no outs situation unscathed. In the second, Mitch Ghelfi reached on an error with two outs, but he was also left stranded.
Naile looked sharp early on, but in the third things fell apart for the righty. Carlos Belonis led off the inning with a single and Troy Stokes, Jr. followed with a double into left field that put two runners into scoring position with no one out. Monte Harrison struck out, and the Snappers opted to intentionally walk Isan Diaz to face Neuhaus. Big mistake. He ripped a Naile offering to the wall in center field, clearing the bases to give the Timber Rattlers the 3-0 lead.
In the top of the fourth, Beloit got a run back. Jesus Lopez started the inning with a single and moved to second on a balk by Perrin. Christ Iriart’s single to center scored Lopez and the Snappers were within two.
In the fifth, Beloit would make it a one-run game. Trace Loehr singled to lead off the inning, and moved to second when Santiago Chavez beat out an infield single. A throwing error moved him to third on the play, and he scored when Lopez grounded out. That made it 3-2.
The Timber Rattlers were not going to let this one get away. In the bottom of the fifth they got one of those runs back to extend the lead back to two. Stokes led off the inning with a double, and moved to third when Harrison laid down a perfect bunt. A balk by Naile allowed Stokes to score and the score was now 4-2.
For Stokes it was a big day at the plate. The left fielder finished with a perfect 3-3 at the plate, and scored two runs. He also hit two doubles. He had three of the team’s five hits.
In the sixth the Timber Rattlers turned to David Lucroy. He pitched exceptionally well, only allowing a one out double in the sixth. He would record the final six outs for his first save of the season.
In Game 2, it was the Beloit Snappers that rode a three-run inning on their way to the win. David Buckhalter started for Wisconsin and he was absolutely awesome through his three innings of work. The right-hander allowed just one hit, a double to lead off the second inning, but a double-play erased Iriart. Buckhalter left after retiring the minimum number of batters he could face, and struck out one.
Evan Manarino (1-0) started for the Beloit Snappers, and he also looked quite impressive. The lefty scattered five hits over five innings of work, walking none and striking out three. The Timber Rattlers had their chances against the Beloit starter but hurt themselves.
In the bottom of the second inning, Max McDowell singled to begin the inning, but was erased on a double-play. With two outs Sthervin Matos singled but he was picked off to end any chance at a theat.
Wisconsin got the leadoff hitter on base to start the fourth, but another double-play ended any threat before it could get going.
In the top of the fourth, Beloit jumped out to the 3-0 lead. With Conor Harber on the hill, Lopez reached on an error with one out. Ryan Howell was then hit by a pitch, and Iriart followed with a blast over the left field wall that made it 3-0. It was Iriart’s first home run of the year.
In the sixth the home team was finally able to score. Corey Miller relieved Manarino and he was greeted by a double off of the bat of Belonis. Two batters later Harrison singled into center field, scoring Belonis to make it 3-1.
In the top of the seventh, Iriart came up huge again. He drilled an offering from Jordan Yamamoto over the center field fence for his second home run of the game. The Snappers first baseman finished the game 3-3 with 2 runs and all 4 RBI. All three of his hits went for extra bases, with a double being the other hit.
Holding onto a 4-1 lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning, the game looked pretty much in hand, but Wisconsin was not going down without a fight. Matos reached second on an error with one out. Two batters later Luis Aviles doubled into center field to score Matos and make it a two-run game. Belonis then kept the game alive, singling into right field to send Aviles home and the game was suddenly a nail-biter.
That would be it for Miller. Armando Ruiz entered the game, and immediately uncorked a wild pitch that moved Belonis into scoring position. However, he remained calm and got the final out when Stokes grounded out to end the game. For Ruiz, it was his first save of the season.
Belonis finished 3-3 for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. He scored a run and drove in another.
The Timber Rattlers squandered plenty of chances in this game. The team rapped out 10 hits, and hit into two double-plays.
The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers travel to Burlington Monday night. Game time is 6:30 local time. Beloit moves onto Clinton.
By Robert Pannier