The Washington Wild Things had held Florence to only three hits over eight and a half innings, yet found themselves trailing 3-2 until a walk and three-straight singles with two out in the bottom of the ninth propelled them over the Freedom 4-3 on Friday night at CONSOL Energy Park.
Wild Things starter Ernesto Zaragoza, who has experienced a roller coaster of a season, threw five no-hit innings and seemed to be cruising until getting into trouble in the sixth with a 2-0 lead.
Zaragoza allowed two singles and a walk sandwiched around a strikeout before Kyle Carter hit a 2 RBI double down the right field line to tie the game.
“Ernie had a little bit of adversity going on,” said Wild Things manager Bob Bozzuto. “Today, he was breezing through five and I was a bit concerned with him because, emotionally, he knows what’s going on and you work a little extra harder.”
Washington then went to reliever Tim Giel, who allowed a RBI groundout to give up the lead.
The Wild Things bullpen, however, held the Freedom to no hits in three perfect innings to set up the ninth inning heroics.
With one out in the ninth, Matt Ford singled and stole second base. Matt Peters followed with a walk and David Popkins sent a sharp line drive single to left field.Ford was sent from second and thrown out at home on the play for the second out of the inning.
Carter Bell kept the Washington hopes alive with a game tying single and Andrew Heck — who was 3-for-5 with a double, two singles and 2 RBI on the night — sent a soft liner over the outreached glove of shortstop Chuck Weaver to walk-off.
“I didn’t have that timely hit earlier in the game,” said Heck. “Luckily for me, I fouled off the first pitch of the at bat. You sometimes get caught up in the moment and take a big swing, but coach Davis yelled at me and got me back into the calm mindset to just go for a single to win it.”
The victory, along with a River City loss, has the Wild Things now six back for the final Frontier League playoff spot with 32 games remaining in the regular season.
(WAS) Zaragoza (ND): 5.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K’s, 1 HBP. 108 Pitches (59 Strikes).
(FLO) Vocca (ND): 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K’s, 1 HBP. 91 Pitches (54 Strikes).
The Wild Things will look to take the series in the second game of a three-game set Saturday evening at 7:05.
(Photo Credit: Washington Wild Things)