The course of the Wild Things’ postseason changed with one innocent swing of first baseman Andrew Czech’s bat late Wednesday night.
Washington was looking at falling behind 2-0 in the Frontier League’s best-of-5 championship series when it entered the top of the ninth inning in Game 2 against the Schaumburg Boomers.
The Wild Things trailed 5-4 and had Hector Roa in scoring position after he singled and stole second base. With two outs, Czech stepped into the batter’s box and worked a 1-1 count against Schaumburg relief pitcher Jack Snyder, who had given up only one run since Aug. 5, a span of 22 innings.
Then, with one mighty swing on a low breaking ball from Snyder, Czech turned the series upside down.
Czech, a rookie out of Walsh University in Ohio, hit a two-run homer down the right-field line that gave the Wild Things a thrilling 6-5 win and evened the series at 1-1.
It was the 16th home run of the year for Czech and his first in the postseason. Though he leads Washington in home runs and hit at a .271 clip during the regular season, Czech is the Wild Things’ No. 9 hitter in their lineup. That proved to be good fortune when the No. 9 spot rolled around late in Game 2.
“He’s the best No. 9 hitter in the league,” Washington manager Tom Vaeth said earlier in the season.
The series shifts to Wild Things Park, where a league champion will be determined this weekend. Game 3 is 7:05 tonight. Washington will send righthander Alex Boshers to the mound. Boshers had a 4-3 record and 5.11 ERA during the regular season. He will be opposed by Schaumburg righthander Ryan Middendorf (11-5, 3.14), a rookie out of Lake Erie College in Ohio.
Game 4 will be Saturday (7:05 p.m.) and Game 5, if necessary, will be Sunday at 5:35 p.m.
After being shut out in Game 1, the Wild Things had a better start to Game 2 as second baseman Scotty Dubrule, who was moved up in the lineup to the leadoff spot, began the contest with a home run off Schaumburg’s Geoff Bramblett.
Before the inning would end, Hector Roa and Trevor Casanova hit RBI singles, giving Washington an early 3-0 lead.
The lead didn’t last long as Schaumburg’s Braxton Davidson, a former first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, hit a three-run homer off Washington starter Daren Osby in the bottom of the first.
Schaumburg forged a 4-3 lead in the second, getting two walks, a single and bases-loaded hit batsman to force in the go-ahead run.
Washington made it 4-4 in the third when Casanova’s second hit of the game scored Bralin Jackson.
The Boomers answered again in the bottom of the third, this time against reliever Dylan Beasley, who was making his Wild Things debut as a replacement for Ben Vicini, who was placed on the disabled list before the series. A double, two walks and a bases-loaded hit batsman on an 0-2 pitch pushed across the run that gave Schaumburg a 5-4 lead.
The score remained 5-4 until the ninth, though Washington had plenty of scoring opportunities. The Wild Things loaded the bases with one out in the fourth but a strikeout and groundout ended the threat. In the fifth, Washington had Casanova on third base with one out before two strikeouts stranded the Washington catcher.
In the sixth, the Wild Things again had a runner on third base with one out before a sharp groundout against a drawn-in infield and a strikeout thwarted the threat. In the eighth, Washington loaded the bases with one out but consecutive strikeouts kept Schaumburg in the lead.
In the ninth, Washington finally broke through.
Roa led off with an opposite-field single. Following a strikeout, Roa stole second base but another strikeout – the 14th by Washington hitters – had the Wild Things down to their final out, setting up Czech’s dramatic at-bat.
Washington closer Zach Strecker pitched the ninth inning, retiring all three batters he faced to secure the win.
B.J. Sabol was the winning pitcher, throwing three scoreless innings. He allowed only one hit and struck out six. It was Sabol’s third win of the postseason.
Washington outhit Schaumburg 14-5 but left 13 runners on base. Shortstop Nick Ward went 4-for-5.