When last seen at Wild Things Park, the Joliet Slammers were frolicking on the turf around home plate, spraying champagne on one another after winning the Frontier League championship in the decisive Game 5 of the finals against Washington last September.
Much has changed for Joliet since that night. The Slammers entered Friday with twice as many losses as wins. Yet for one night at least, Joliet looked like the Slammers of last fall.
Joliet hit three home runs, including two in the first inning, and went on to a 7-4 victory over the Wild Things.
When their bus rolled into Washington, the Slammers were averaging only 2.8 runs per game, had a league-worst team batting of .209 and their 15 home runs were the fewest in the circuit. Those numbers didn’t suggest what was to happen.
Chaz Meadows homered off Washington starter Nick Wegmann (3-4) only two batters into the game, Dash Winningham smacked a two-run homer before the first inning ended, and Riley Krane hit a pivotal three-run blast in the seventh inning that gave Joliet a 7-3 lead.
“I like this park for our hitters,” Joliet manager Jeff Isom said. “If this game were played at our park, then we wouldn’t have had a home run. None of the three would have been out at our place.”
They all left Wild Things Park and had the home team playing catch-up all night.
“Nick didn’t have his best stuff,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said. “He fell behind 2-0 on Meadows and 2-0 on Winningham. He left one up to Krane.”
Joliet lefty Tyler Jandron (3-2) pitched eight innings to deal the Wild Things only their third loss in their last 12 games. Jandron was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday because of rain in the forecast and pushed back a day. He allowed seven hits and four runs (three earned) and struck out four.
“The last time we faced him, we squared up some balls against him,” Langebehn recalled. “This time, he threw strikes, changed his tempo, altered his delivery and did all the things that make your successful in this league.”
After falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first, Washington scored two quick runs in the bottom half of the frame. Blake Adams led off with a double and scored on an error as Cameron Baranek reached base. Shaine Hughes then hit the first of his two doubles to make it 3-2 but he was stranded at second base.
Joliet pushed its lead to 4-2 in the third, but Washington scored again in the bottom half. Adams had a broken-bat single and moved to third when Baranek singled. Hughes then had an RBI double and Washington had runners on second and third with no outs but could do no further damage.
“We had chances to break that game open,” Langbehn said. “Not scoring after having second and third with no outs came back to haunt us.”
Washington still trailed 4-3 in the seventh when L.J. Kalawaia and London Lindley started the inning with singles. Carter Johnson replaced Wegmann, and after a fielder’s choice, Krane homered to left field to make it 7-3.
“We had some good approaches at the plate,” Isom said. “We stayed off breaking balls early in the count to get into fastball counts. We’re not going to hit three home runs very often. We have to rely on our speed and scrap for runs.”
Hector Roa hit a solo home run in the eighth inning for Washington’s final run. He has a 14-game hitting streak. ... The bottom five hitters in Washington’s lineup were a combined 1-for-19.