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Down to your last strike or two, no worries the Wild Things say. That’s when all the fun starts.

After winning Game 2 of the best-of-5 Frontier League championship series Wednesday by rallying after being down to its final out, the Wild Things mounted another come-from-behind effort Friday in Game 3.

Down to its final strike in the bottom of the ninth, Washington rallied to tie and force extra innings, then won 3-2 in the 10th inning when Grant Heyman’s broken-bat single over a drawn-in infield scored Nick Ward from third base with the game-winning run before 2,703 chilled fans at Wild Things Park.

"This team fights to the end," Washington manager Tom Vaeth said.

Washington, seeking its first league title in its 19-season history, has a 2-1 series lead and put Schaumburg on the brink of elimination.

Game 4 is 7:05 tonight. Rob Whalen is scheduled to pitch for Washington. Schaumburg is expected to start Erik Martinez, who has won his last three decisions.

In the bottom of the 10th, Ward led off with a single to center field off Schaumburg reliever Jake Joyce. Ward stole second base and catcher Nick Oddo’s throw went into center field, allowing Ward to move to third base. Heyman then delivered the game-winning single over the Boomers' second baseman.

For six innings, the game was a masterful pitchers’ duel between Schaumburg sidearming rookie Ryan Middendorf and Washington crafty veteran Alex Boshers. Both pitchers took shutouts into the seventh, when Schaumburg broke the string of zeroes.

Boshers, who was pitching the final game of his seven-year profesisonal career, was riding a one-hit shutout in the seventh when Schaumburg first baseman Braxton Davidson, a former first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Braves, hit a one-out line drive down the right-field line. Washington’s extreme shift against the lefty hitter held Davidson to a single.

Clint Hardy followed by dunking a single into right centerfield with Davidson advancing to second base. Angelo Gumbs then fouled out to first base for the inning’s second out.

Washington manager Tom Vaeth then made a trip to the pitcher’s mound. With lefty reliever B.J. Sabol, who has been unhittable in the postseason, ready in the bullpen and Matt Bottcher, a lefthanded hitter, due up, Vaeth left Boshers in the game.

Boshers jumped ahead of Bottcher 0-2 in the count, then left a pitch over the plate and the Schaumburg left fielder bounced it up the middle, to the right of second base, and into center field. Davidson beat the throw to the plate from Hector Roa to make it 1-0.

Boshers gave up four hits and one run in 7 1/3 innings. he did not issue a walk and struck out five.

"To go out there and pitch the way he did, knowing this was it for him, everyone should appreciate that," Vaeth said. "It was cool to see him go out the way he did.

"There were a lot of things we didn't do well, but Bo kept us close and we kept battling."

Washington relievers B.J. Sabol and Dan Kubiuk worked out of a full-blown jam in the top of the eighth. Schaumburg loaded the bases with one out but Sabol struck out Davidson, and Kubiuk got Hardy to fly out to right field, keeping it a 1-0 game.

Washington tied it in the bottom of the eighth but also squandered an excellent chance to take the lead. Designated hitter Joe Campagna, making his first start of the series, led off with a single and that was all for Middendorf, who allowed only four hits and did not walk a batter.

Middendorf is proof that you can’t judge a college pitcher solely on statistics. This spring, he had a 1-9 record and a 6.18 ERA for Lake Erie College, a Division II school located in Painesville, Ohio. In fairness, he was a highly regarded prospect after a good 2019 season but Lake Erie’s team this year had an 8-29 record that made Middendorf’s numbers much worse than they should have been.

Lefty Darrell Thompson relieved Middendorf and faced pinch-hitter Tristan Peterson, who bunted back to the mound. Thompson’s throw to second base was wide and Campagna slid in safely. Scotty Dubrule advanced the runners with a bunt and Andrew Sohn was intentionally walked to load the bases.

With Ward at the plate, a wild pitch allowed Campagna to race home with the tying run. Washington, however, couldn’t push across the go-ahead run as Ward fouled out and, after an intentional walk, Heyman struck out.

Schaumburg took a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth, loading the bases with one out before Chase Dawson’s ground ball to second base went off the glove of Dubrule for an error as Bottcher scored to make it 2-1. The inning ended when Jackson, Washington’s right fielder, threw out Luke Becker at home plate, who tried to score on a fly out.

Washington was down to its final strike in the bottom of the ninth, but as it did in Game 2 showed more fight than could have been expected. With Trevor Casanova on second base with two outs, Peterson fell behind in the count 0-2 against Schaumburg reliever Thomas Nicoll before he singled to left centerfield. The throw from center fielder Chase Dawson to home plate hit Casanova and kicked away, forcing a 2-2 tie.

Zach Strecker, with 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, was the winning pitcher. He was helped in a 1-2-3 top of the 10th when Roa banged into the wall in right center field and caught a drive by Davidson for the inning's second out.

"There were a lot of big plays," Vaeth said. "B.J. continued to get big outs, Strecker battled and Jackson throwing out the runner at home plate was the biggest play, plus Roa running down the ball to the fence and making a catch.

"You're not going to play 10-1 games at this point in the season. To get to this point, the two teams probably have good pitching staffs, so you have to find other ways to win. We did that. Grant Heyman choked up, broke his bat and hit a game-winner."

Sports Editor

Since 1986, Chris Dugan has been covering local sports for the Observer-Reporter, and named sports editor in 2006. Before joining the O-R, he was sports editor at the Democrat-Messenger, and a former member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

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