The beauty of a changeup as a pitch is its slowness, its way of making hitters think they are getting a fastball when they are being set up to look bad.
When it works, like it did Saturday night for Wild Things pitcher Michael Austin, hitters are left to second-guess every thought leading up to that pitch.
The development of a changeup, according to Washington manager Gregg Langbehn, has turned around Austin’s season.
Of course, it also helps when the Washington righthander is staked to an early five-run lead.
Austin pitched seven strong innings, Washington took advantage of some sloppy play by Schaumburg to score five runs in the second inning and the Wild Things held off a late charge to beat the Boomers, 6-3.
Austin (4-5) won his second consecutive start, giving up only one run and four hits. He left with a 6-1 lead.
“The changeup has made the difference for him,” Langbehn said. “It’s offsetting his fastball. He liked to throw everything hard, his fastball, his cutter. He needed something to keep guys off his fastball and that’s what the changeup does. That’s his fourth good start in a row.”
It also has changed Austin’s mental outlook after a rocky start to his second year in Washington.
“His confidence is a big difference,” Langbehn said. “He has seen the end result. I don’t think he was in a good spot a month ago.”
The win assured the Wild Things of entering the Frontier League’s all-star break, which starts Monday, in fourth place in the five-team East Division. They are, however, only 5½ games behind first-place Lake Erie.
It also was the 441st win in the Frontier League for Langbehn, moving him into seventh place on the career wins list, passing former Wild Things manager John Massarelli.
Washington scored five runs in a messy bottom of the second inning for Schaumburg. The Boomers had two errors and starting pitcher Connor Reed (2-4) threw a pair of wild pitches in the inning. All five Wild Things runs were unearned.
J.J. Fernandez started the inning by grounding a double inside third base and down the left-field line. After a popout, Fernandez tried to advance when Chase Sudduth hit a grounder to Schaumburg shortstop Jimmy Galusky. The throw from Galusky to third baseman Matt Rose would have been in time to get Fernandez but it bounced and the Wild Things’ first baseman moved up safely on the throwing error.
Drew Bene then hit a chopper back top Reed, who took a quick glance at Fernandez, who had momentarily stopped between third base and home plate. Reed, however, spun and threw to second base in an attempt to start an inning-ending double play. His throw was too far to the shortstop side of the base, preventing Galusky from even getting to the bag as Fernandez scored the game’s first run.
One out later, Washington’s Blake Adams laced a fly ball to the gap in left centerfield. Schaumburg center fielder Connor Oliver attempted to make a diving catch but failed to come up with the ball as it bounced behind him and rolled to the wall. Sudduth and Bene scored and Adams slid head-first into third base for a triple.
A wild pitch allowed Adams to score and make it 4-0. Saige Jenco kept the inning going by drawing a walk. He stole second base and kept going to third base when the pitch went to the backstop for a wild pitch. He scored the inning’s fifth run when Cody Erickson singled.
“We got off to a quick start by putting the ball in play,” Erickson said. “Our leadoff hitters did a good job of getting on base and we tried to move them over and keep the pressure on.”
Austin had a brief stumble in the third inning when he issued both of his walks, one to Dylan Jones, who scored on a sacrifice fly by Galusky.
Washington pushed the lead back to a five-run advantage at 6-1 in the fifth inning when Cameron Baranek went the opposite way with a Reed pitch and snuck it just inside the left-field foul pole for a solo home run. It was Baranek’s fourth homer of the season.
Schaumburg, which has scored the game-winning run 10 times this season during its final inning of batting, tried to mount a ninth-inning comeback. The Boomers had their first three batters reach base and scored one run before Washington called upon closer Zach Strecker to get out of a sticky situation. He retired three of the four batters he faced for his seventh save of the season and eighth all-time against Schaumburg.
“Michael looked very comfortable out there tonight and that’s why he was able to get through seven innings,” said Erickson, who had two of Washington’s 10 hits. “The all-star break is happening at a very good time. It will give us a chance to rest and get a fresh start.”
The start of the game was delayed 35 minutes because of rain. … Former Pittsburgh Penguins player Colby Armstrong threw out the honorary first pitch.