The Wild Things turned in another strong pitching performance Wednesday.
This time, the offense provided enough support to turn that quality pitching from starter Kevin McNorton and relievers James Meeker and Sean Kealey into a victory.
And one sterling defensive play helped, too.
Washington scored three early runs – two on a second-inning double by Brian Sharp – and two late on a home run by Trevor Casanova, and the three Wild Things pitchers combined on a five-hitter for a 5-1 victory over the New Jersey Jackals.
The win snapped a three-game losing skid for the Wild Things.
Though Sharp’s double was the game’s key hit, it was his defensive gem in the seventh inning that was the most impressive and the game’s key play.
New Jersey had just trimmed a three-run Washington lead to 3-1 in the seventh and had Dalton Combs on first base with no outs. Designated hitter Stanley Espinal then hit a hard grounder to the left side of the infield that appeared ticketed for the outfield.
Sharp, the Wild Things’ third baseman, dove to his left and snagged the grounder. From his knees, Sharp fired a strike to second baseman Nick Ward, triggering an around-the-horn double play that got McNorton (1-2) out of his only sticky situation of the night.
“It sure seemed like the biggest play at the time,” Washington manager Tom Vaeth said. “You can see Sharp’s confidence growing inning by inning.”
Washington made an offseason trade with Gateway to acquire Sharp with the idea of improving its infield defense.
“That’s why we traded for him. He has the reputation of being a plus defender with both the glove and the arm,” Vaeth said.
Washington got off to a good start, scoring three runs over the first two innings against New Jersey starter John Hayes (0-2).
Center fielder Derek Reddy led off the bottom of the first inning with a single, moved to third base when Nick Ward followed with a single and scored when Hector Roa bounced into a double play.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the second. Left fielder Bralin Jackson led off the frame with a single and stole second base. Shortstop John Sansone, who was on base three times, followed with a walk. Sharp then laced a double to the gap in right centerfield, scoring Jackson and Sansone.
New Jersey scored its lone run in the seventh when left fielder Alfredo Marte hit his third home run of the season, a solo shot to start the inning. Marte was the Can-Am League Most Valuable Player in 2019 and is a former major leaguer, having played in 71 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Los Angeles Angels.
McNorton pitched seven innings, allowing four hits and one run. He walked two and struck out three. Meeker pitched the eighth and Kealey, a rookie out of Allegheny College, threw a scoreless ninth inning.
Washington gave its relievers some room for error in the bottom of the eighth when Casanova hit a two-run homer, his first of the season, down the right-field line. Casanova did not start the game and entered as a defensive replacement at catcher in the top of the eighth.
“Good starting pitching and scoring early, that’s a good recipe for a win,” Vaeth said. “We still had a middle-innings lull, but we’re going to enjoy this one and try to come back and win the series.”
The Frontier League’s Sussex County Miners, who are in first place in the Northeast Division, announced they have an agreement to sign 11-year major-league veteran third baseman Todd Frazier. The Miners said Frazier, who played briefly for the Pittsburgh Pirates this year, will make his debut Friday. … New Jersey center fielder Demetrius Moorer played college baseball in Pittsburgh at Point Park. … Washington had 12 hits, one shy of its season high.