Connor Oliver’s bat got in the way of a terrific pitchers’ duel Friday night.
Oliver, Schaumburg’s center fielder, homered, doubled and drove in four runs to lead the Boomers to a 4-2 victory over Washington before 2,904, the second-largest crowd of the season at Wild Things Park.
Oliver hit a two-run homer in the second inning off Washington starter Michael Austin (4-7) and added a two-run double an inning later.
That was all the run support three Schaumburg pitchers needed as they combined on a two-hitter and struck out 14.
Schaumburg lefty starter Gunner Kines (5-4) struck out 10 over six innings. Setup reliever Darrell Thompson, also a lefthander, struck out four of the six batters he faced over two innings and Connor Eller pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his league-leading 15th save.
“You can’t strike out 14 times,” Washington manager Gregg Langbehn said. “We didn’t make them play defense. They did get good at throwing the ball around the infield after strikeouts. They didn’t have an error doing that. That’s the way our offense has been lately.”
After Oliver staked Schaumburg to the early 4-0 lead, Washington scored single runs in the third and fourth innings. The Wild Things took advantage of a bit of wildness by Kines in the third. He walked three batters in the inning and J.R. Davis hit an RBI groundout to make it 4-1.
In the fourth, Alex Murphy doubled down the left-field line and J.J. Fernandez, who was back in the lineup after missing two games with a wrist injury, followed with a double to the wall in left centerfield, scoring Murphy and making it 4-2.
That, however, was the end of Washington’s offensive output. The Wild Things did not have a hit or baserunner the rest of the way as Kines and the Boomers’ bullpen retired 17 consecutive batters to end the game.
“Kines threw strikes,” Langbehn said. “With the exception of the one inning when he had the three walks, it felt like every pitch he threw was a strike. Then Thompson and Eller came in and they threw strikes.”
Kines’ mastery of the Washington hitters wasn’t complicated.
“He threw 80 to 90 percent fastballs,” said Schaumburg manager Jamie Bennett, who earned his 400th career victory.
“He’s a high spin-rate guy. We call what he throws invisible. He gets a lot of swings and misses with his fastball. It’s hard for guys to square him up.”
Oliver, a four-year Frontier League veteran, squared up a pitch from Austin and hit it the opposite way to left field for a two-run homer in the second inning. It was Oliver’s third home run of the season and first since May. His two-run double and inning later was pulled to right field.
After Oliver’s double, Austin retired 15 of the last 17 batters he faced. One of the two Boomers to reach base struck out but advanced when the third strike eluded the Washington catcher.
Austin allowed six hits in a season-long 72/3 innings.
“We couldn’t get to Austin,” Bennett said. “We got a couple early but he settled down. Both starting pitchers did a good job of competing.”
Prior to the game, Washington sent lefthanded relief pitcher Nick Durazo (2-2, 4.18) to Southern Illinois to complete the trade made Monday that brought corner infielder Stephen Lohr to the Wild Things. Durazo was acquired from Southern Illinois in the offseason in a trade that sent starting pitcher Chase Cunningham to the Miners. … To fill Durazo’s roster spot, Washington activated pitcher John Havird (4-4, 4.09) from the bereavement list. Havird pitched the final 11/3 innings against the Boomers, allowing one hit and striking out four. Havird will go back in the starting rotation next week.