It’s been a tough season early on for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. A 9-28 start has them in last place in the Western Division of the Midwest League, and the club was looking for a spark following a 1-9 performance over their previous 1o games. They needed their pitching staff to step-up and deliver a big performance, and that is exactly what they got from Kori Medeiros and David Burkhalter.
The game got off on the right foot for the Timber Rattlers. Jeremy Rhoades started for the Burlington Bees. He retired the first hitter of the game, then hit Carlos Leal. The Burlington starter struck out Elvis Rubio, but not before uncorking a wild pitch that put a runner at second with two outs. A clutch hit was needed and Dustin DeMuth delivered, singling into left field to score Leal.
Staked to a 1-o lead, Medeiros took to the mound, but he could not hold the lead. A one out walk to Erick Salcedo and a single by Zach Houchins put runners at first and second. Caleb Adams followed, and worked the count full before lining a triple into the right field alley that plated both runners.
Medeiros, the Milwaukee Brewers first pick in 2014, had struggled in the first, but he would settle down. He gave up a lead-off double in the second, followed by a walk, before retiring the next three hitters in order. In the third he issued a two out walk to Adams, but struck out two, including the final hitter of the inning.
As the game went on he seemed to become more confident in his stuff, and it showed in his performance. The Wisconsin starter struck out the first hitter of the fourth, before giving up a single to Brandon Gildea. The lefty then threw a perfect 5-4-3 double-play ball to end the threat.
In the fifth Medeiros allowed a lead-off single, then got back-to-back groundouts before striking out Houchins to end the inning. Five innings would be all that the Timber Rattlers would ask of their starter. He finished with 5 hits and 3 walks allowed. He also struck out 6.
While their pitcher was handling business, the Timber Rattlers hitters came alive to support his performance. In the top of the third inning, Alan Sharkey drilled his first home run of the season over the right field wall to tie the game.
In the top of the fourth, Rubio and DeMuth led off with back-to-back singles. Rubio moved to third on a wild pitch, but was gunned down at the plate on a fine play by Houchins at third. Tucker Neuhaus put Wisconsin back in front with a ground out, and another run came across on a wild pitch.
The 4-2 lead was plenty enough for Medeiros but, with his day over after five innings, it was the bullpen that was going to have to maintain the lead. The club turned the ball over to David Burkhalter and they would not have to take it back. The right-hander pitched four scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and a walk, while striking out 4. The four inning outing earned Burkhalter his first save of the season. Medeiros (1-2) earned his first victory.
The outing for both pitchers was a much needed shot in the arm. With the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers beginning an 11-game road trip, the victory was a great start, and with both pitchers entering the contest with ERAs above five, it gives the club optimism to think that good things are coming from the two highly regarded prospects.
These two teams square off again Tuesday night. The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers send Milton Gomez (2-2, 5.54) to the hill, while the Burlington Bees counter with undefeated Justin Anderson (3-0, 4.02). Game time is 6:30 local time.
By Robert Pannier