Wild Things right fielder Hector Roa hit 24 baseballs over the outfield wall when he finished as the runner-up in the Home Run Derby portion of the all-star game that matched the Frontier League against the Can-Am League last Wednesday.
Roa tried to hit one more home run, in his final at-bat Tuesday night. Needing a home run to become only the second player in Wild Things history to hit for the cycle, Roa stepped into the batter’s box in the eighth inning against Windy City relief pitcher Justin Miller and swung as hard as he could.
The result was a foul out to the first baseman.
“Of course I swung for the fence in that at-bat. But that should be a lesson for all hitters,” Roa said. “I had good results in my previous at-bats because I was patient and waited for my pitch. I didn’t try to do too much. So why change?”
The Wild Things were a patient bunch at the plate on this night and produced 13 hits, including five that went for extra-bases, during a 9-4 thumping of the ThunderBolts.
“This was a good bounceback for us,” said Roa, who went 3-for-5 with three runs and an RBI. “We lost a series over the weekend at Schaumburg but this is a new week. … We can do more than what we did in this game.”
Washington overcame an early two-run deficit by scoring five times in the bottom of the second and led the rest of the way. Windy City pulled to within 5-4 in the fourth but Washington pulled away with a run in the fifth and three more in the seventh.
The Wild Things were the only East Division team to get a win Tuesday and pulled to within six games of first place in the East Division.
“We don’t have much wiggle room left,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said. “We have to win series.”
Windy City forged a 2-0 lead in the second inning against Washington starter Nick Gallagher, who was making his professional debut. Gallagher was signed earlier in the day to fill the rotation spot vacated by John Havird, who was deactivated Monday following a death in his family last week.
Gallagher, who was a teammate of Washington starting pitcher Nick Wegmann at Binghamton University, retired the side in order in the first inning but hit two batters with pitches in the second and gave up a run-scoring double to Micah Coffey and an RBI single to Omar Obregon.
The Windy City lead didn’t last long as the Wild Things sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the second and scored five times against ThunderBolts starter Cole Bellair (2-2), who pitched Tennessee Wesleyan to the NAIA national championship this spring. Washington had a leadoff triple by Roa and doubles from Cody Erickson and Saige Jenco in the pivotal inning.
The ThunderBolts closed to within 5-4 when Tyler Straub, the No. 9 hitter in the Windy City lineup, smacked a two-out, two-run homer in the fourth. It was Straub’s first home run of the season.
That would be the last of Windy City’s scoring as four Washington relief pitchers combined for 51/3 scoreless innings, allowing only three hits. Carter Johnson (2-2) relieved Gallagher in the fourth and threw 21/3 innings for the win. He was followed by Jesus Balaguer, B.J. Sabol and Zach Reid, the latter a West Virginia University product who made his pro debut by throwing a scoreless ninth inning.
“The bullpen did a good job,” Langbehn said. “When we can line it up and match up, we have been a considerably better team.”
Roa singled, stole second base and scored on a single by J.J. Fernandez that made it 6-4 in the fifth.
Cameron Baranek led off the seventh with a double and scored when Roa doubled to center field. After Fernandez walked, Erickson singled home Roa to make it 8-4. Fernandez scored the game’s final run when Brett Marr singled.
Fernandez went 2-for-3 and extended his hitting streak to 10 games. … Washington stole four bases and turned two double plays. … Sabol faced only two batters, striking out each, in the eighth.