The promotion at Wild Things Park on Thursday was called “Wrestling Night,” so the performance by Washington center fielder J.R. Davis in the bottom of the 11th inning deserved a resounding “Wooooo!”
Davis belted a 1-2 pitch from Joliet’s Isaac Sanchez for a three-run, game-winning, walk-off home run that gave the Wild Things a 6-3 victory over the Slammers.
Washington won two of the three games in the series and Davis played a key role in each Wild Things victory. On Tuesday, in a 3-2 win, he hit a one-out triple in the bottom of the ninth and scored the game-winning run on a single by Shaine Hughes.
Two nights later, in the international tiebreaker format, Davis was at bat with the scored tied, teammate Stephen Lohr at third base and Ryan Cox at second.
Davis fell behind 1-2 in the count but Sanchez (2-5) left a slider up and Davis turned on it and drove it over the wall in left field and into the parking lot.
The home run – the first walk-off homer by Davis in his four-year professional career – triggered a wild celebration at home plate. Davis was met by his teammates, doused with ice water and given a replica WWE championship belt.
“Honestly, I was just trying to put the bat on the ball,” Davis said while wearing the championship belt. “(Sanchez) was throwing me a bunch of sliders. I thought I could put a good swing on it.”
The walk-off victory, which was the Wild Things’ fourth of the season, gave reliever Jesus Balaguer (5-3) his second win in three nights. Balaguer, the fifth Washington pitcher of the night, was outstanding. He threw 31/3 shutout innings, allowing only one hit and no walks. He struck out five, including two in the top of the 11th when the Slammers started with a runner on second base.
Washington starter Nick Gallagher took a shutout and a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning when Joliet struck for three runs. Riley Krane hit a leadoff triple and scored when Oliver Nunez lifted a sacrifice fly to center field.
The inning got strange from there. Harrison Bragg hit a two-out single off reliever B.J. Sabol, and Peyton Isaacson lofted a high fly ball to right field that should have ended the inning. However, Washington right fielder Hector Roa lost the ball in the twilight and it fell in for a run-scoring double. Jimmy Roche then hit the next pitch up the middle to score Isaacson and give Joliet a 3-2 lead.
Gallagher, a rookie out of Binghamton University, allowed two hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings.
Washington made it 3-3 in the seventh when J.J. Fernandez and Cody Erickson each singled and Alex Murphy hit a sacrifice fly.
Murphy figured into each of the game’s first two runs. He hit a leadoff double in the third off Joliet starter Scott Hoffman and scored on a sacrifice fly by Stephen Lohr. In the fifth, Murphy doubled again and scored when Brett Marr followed with the first of his two hits.
Joliet pitchers did not issue a walk in the last 22 innings of the three-game series. … The game was the 34th this season that went to the tiebreaker format, which is each half inning after the 10th starting with a runner on second base. The home teams hold an 18-16 edge in tiebreaker games. Washington is 4-3 in tiebreakers and Joliet fell to 3-4.