The Wild Things were looking at the final three games before the all-star break and the first three after the layoff as the perfect opportunity to make their move in the Frontier League’s East Division.
That stretch began Friday night, and all six of the games are against the Schaumburg Boomers, who pulled into Wild Things Park in a tie for first place in the East.
Washington, however, lost ground as Schaumburg got a strong start by pitcher Aaron Rozek and hit two home runs to beat the Wild Things, 7-2.
To make matters worse, it was a former WPIAL player who did the most damage for Schaumburg. Right fielder Dylan Jones, who was a member of two state championship teams at Riverside High School and played in a pair of WPIAL title games at Wild Things Park, hit a three-run homer to cap Schaumburg’s four-run third inning. Jones went 2-for-5 and drove in four runs.
“I’ve always liked playing here,” Jones said. “I had about 20 family members here.”
The Jones Gang was standing and cheering when the Fombell native’s long fly ball down the right-field line snuck inside the foul pole for a three-run homer that gave the Boomers a 4-0 lead. The home run came off Washington starter A.J. Bogucki (2-2).
“He got me on a slider in my first at-bat, so I focused on being on it the second time,” Jones said. “He left it up.”
That was enough run support for Rozek (3-3), a soft-tossing lefty who allowed two runs over 7 2/3 innings. In only one inning did Washington have more than one baserunner against Rozek, who did not walk a batter and struck out three.
“That’s the way it has been this week,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said. “We haven’t swung the bats real well. Tonight we didn’t have many opportunities.”
The Wild Things scored single runs in the fourth and seventh innings. In the fourth, Saige Jenco hit a leadoff double and scored on a one-out single by Hector Roa to cut Schaumburg’s lead to 4-1.
In the seventh, J.J. Fernandez had a leadoff single and advanced on a wild pitch and groundout before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Brett Marr that made it 7-2.
Bogucki gave up six runs over six innings. In four of those innings, Schaumburg’s leadoff batter reached base.
Jack Parenty, who was 4-for-5, hit a leadoff double in the fifth and scored on a single by Quincy Nieporte. In the sixth, the Boomers’ Nick Oddo led off with a solo home run that made it 7-1.
“A.J.’s location was off,” Langbehn said. “He ended up eating six innings, which was important for us after playing 12 innings (Thursday) night. That’s the first time he’s struggled since his first start.”
If Washington is to gain ground on the Boomers over the next 10 days, then they will have to string together some wins and play better at home, where they are a league-worst 8-16.
“From this point on, they’re all important,” Langbehn said. “The division is up for grabs. We have to figure out a way to get on a roll, especially at home. We’ve played poorly at home.
“We worked to get ourselves into position where we’re close. But we have to swing the bats better than we have been doing.”