For the first eight innings Wednesday night at Wild Things Park, there wasn’t much for the home fans to cheer about. The loudest responses were reserved for the young girl who sang the national anthem and returned in the seventh inning for a stirring rendition of “God Bless America.”
There was another solo home run by Washington designated hitter Alex Murphy, his second in as many nights, but that was it for the on-field highlights for the home team.
River City starting pitcher Taylor Ahearn and reliever Anthony Herrera had handcuffed the Wild Things and turned a 3-1 lead over to closer Jason Zgardowski, who was given the task of getting the game’s final three outs.
The Rascals got only one out as Washington took advantage of some sloppy defense by River City and put together its most unlikely comeback of the season.
J.R. Davis, playing in only his second game with Washington, hit a two-run single to cap a three-run bottom of the ninth as Washington rallied for a 4-3 victory.
“They gifted us a couple of runs but we still did our part,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said.
Zgardowski, who earned a five-out save Tuesday night, walked newcomer Stephen Lohr to begin the bottom of the ninth. Cameron Baranek followed with a chopper to first baseman Zach Lavy, who charged the ball but had it roll under his glove for an error.
Ryan Cox, the No. 9 hitter in the Washington lineup, then dropped down a perfect bunt up the third-base line that went for a single and loaded the bases with no outs.
“The last couple of days our offense was so close, we were just missing that timely hit,” Cox said. “Before the ninth inning, we said if we can just get something going our offense is good enough.”
River City would give one more gift to Washington. With Blake Adams at the plate, a Zgardowski pitch went to the backstop allowing Lohr to score and cut the Rascals’ lead to 3-2.
Davis fouled off a pitch before hitting a one-out grounder between third base and shortstop. Rascals shortstop Matt McCourt dove at the ball but it bounced off his glove and into left field as Baranek and Cox raced around for the tying and winning runs.
“It was frustrating for most of the night,” Langbehn said. “Sure, (River City) had some miscues, but we took advantage of them.”
Three Washington pitchers held River City to six hits. Jesus Balaguer (3-3) pitched the ninth to get the win.
Chartiers Valley graduate Josh Lapiana started and pitched 5 2/3 innings, his longest outing as a pro. He gave up a two-run double to James Morisano in the second inning and a wild pitch in the fifth upped the Rascals’ lead to 3-1.
Reliever James Meeker followed Lapiana on the mound and threw 2 1/3 shutout innings with four strikeouts.
“Lapiana did a really nice job,” Langbehn said. “Meeker had a nice bounceback outing. He didn’t look good in Lake Erie last weekend but he was very efficient and pounded the strike zone tonight.”
Ahearn pitched seven innings and gave up only four hits, including Murphy’s home run in the second. He struck out nine. Herrera struck out three more in on inning of relief.