For five innings Saturday afternoon, the Peoria Chiefs were dominating the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Starter Ryan Helsley (0-1) retired the first 12 batters he faced before finally yielding back-to-back singles to start the fifth. He was rolling, but a six-run sixth inning erased a 1-0 lead for the Chiefs and powered the Timber Rattlers to a 7-2 victory.
Drake Owenby (1-0) started for Wisconsin and he looked sharp as well. The left-hander retired Peoria in order in the first and yielded just a single in the second. In the third, the Chiefs mounted a little rally. A run of three straight singles loaded the bases. Vaughn Bryan got it started, then was a base hit by Thomas Spitz, and finally a ground single up the middle by Eliezer Alvarez filled the bags with Chiefs.
This inning had catastrophe written all over it, but Owenby was not going to be flustered by the start to the frame. He got Edmundo Sosa to fly out, scoring Bryan, then struck out the next two batters to escape the inning. That left the score 1-0 after three.
It would remain that way until the bottom of the sixth when the Timber Rattlers offense would erupt. Elvis Rubio started the inning with a single to center, just the Timber Rattlers third hit of the game. Magneuris Sierra misplayed the ball in center, allowing Rubio to race all the way to third. Luis Aviles followed and lined a single up the middle that easily scored Rubio to tie the game. Next up was Carlos Belonis, who sent a Helsley offering to the wall in center, scoring Aviles all the way from first. Belonis made second easily but pressed his luck a bit, only to be thrown out at third. Next up was as Isan Diaz, and he hit a blast over the left center field wall for his second home run of the season. Two batters later Mitch Ghelfi doubled and that would be it for Helsley.
Sasha Kuebel came in to try to get the last out of the inning, but he was unable to shut the door right away. David Denson greeted the Chiefs reliever with a base hit that scored Ghelfi and Jake Gatewood followed with a single that moved Denson to second. A wild pitch moved both runners up 90-feet, and Alan Sharkey reached on an error that scored Denson. Rubio then came up for the second time in the inning and singled to score Gatewood. That made it 6-1 Wisconsin.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Timber Rattlers extended their lead to six. Belonis led off the inning and turned on a Kuebel offering, drilling it over the left field wall for his first home run of the season. That made the score 7-1.
In the eighth, the Chiefs would get one back. Edmundo Sosa started the inning with a single and moved to third on an error. He would score on a wild pitch and that would be the final score of the game.
Owenby gave a very solid outing in recording his first win of the season. The left-hander went 6-innings, allowing 7-hits and one earned run. He struck out 4. Miguel Diaz went the final three innings for his first save of the season. Diaz allowed 2-hits, an unearned run, and struck out 2.
At the plate the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers got the most out of their 11-hits. Belonis was 2-4 with a run and 2-RBI. He also homered. Ghelfi and Denson were both 2-4 with a run scored. Rubio was 2-3 with a run and an RBI.
These two teams will close out their four-game series tomorrow afternoon. Junior Fernandez (1-0, 4.50) will take the hill for the Chiefs. Jake Drossner (0-1, 4.26) will go for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. Game time is 1:05.
By Robert Pannier