Wild Things logo

If the Wild Things’ push for a Frontier League playoff berth ultimately falls short, there is little doubt that Sunday night will be recalled as a pivot point.

For the second consecutive day, Washington had an opportunity to gain ground on first-place Sussex County in the Northeast Division, and things could not have started better for the home team. The Wild Things forged a seemingly commanding 7-0 lead in the third inning against New Jersey, which had lost its starting pitcher to a back injury after only one inning.

Then, without warning, the Wild Things self-destructed like one of those old Mission Impossible tapes.

New Jersey, which smacked four solo home runs to win 4-2 Saturday night, belted four more homers over a 15-batter stretch and rallied for a stunning 8-7 victory before a crowd of 2,951, the largest of the year at Wild Things Park.

It was the worst loss of the season, no doubt.

New Jersey scored six runs in the fourth inning and added solo home runs in the fifth and sixth.

“The guys went out and busted their butts to get a seven-run lead, then we can’t get out of the fourth inning,” frustrated Washington manager Tom Vaeth said.

The silver lining, if there can be one, is that Washington did not lose ground to Sussex County, which was beaten 4-3 at Tri-City. The Wild Things remain 3½ games behind the Miners. But failing to hold a seven-run lead against a team that had lost nine of its last 11 was an unexpected gut punch.

“There are wins and there are good wins,” New Jersey manager Brooks Carey said. “That was a good win.”

Washington forged the 7-0 lead with one run in the first, five in the second and three in the third. Andrew Sohn tripled and scored in the first against starter Chris Tessitore and hit a two-run homer in the second. Washington hit three home runs in the second, all off reliever Thomas Spinelli. Center fielder Hector Roa led off the inning with his ninth of the season, and catcher Cody Young had a two-run shot.

Joe Campagna’s RBI single scored Roa and made the score 7-0 in the third.

Then, the New Jersey avalanche started. The Jackals scored six times in the fourth off starter McKenzie Mills and reliever Ben Vicini. Designated hitter Nicco Toni hit a three-run homer to start the Jackals’ comeback. Demetrius Moorer singled and stole second base. When the throw from catcher Cody Young went into the outfield and Washington was slow to retrieve the baseball, Moorer motored all the way around the bases to make it 7-4.

Todd Isaacs then homered down the left-field line – his fifth homer this season at Wild Things Park – and Santiago Chirino was hit by a pitch. Two batters later, Jason Agresti singled off Vicini, scoring Chirino and making it 7-6.

“Jersey has enough offense, like any team, when you throw the ball down the middle of the plate,” Vaeth said. “We walk the leadoff many with a seven-run lead. What do you think is going to happen?”

The Jackals tied it at 7-7 when Stanley Espinal hit a leadoff homer off Jesus Balaguer (1-3) in the fifth. Dalton Combs led off the sixth with home run that put the Jackals ahead, 8-7.

“Jesus had been pitching well,” Vaeth said, “but wasn’t as sharp tonight. Both he and Vincini looked tired. They each had thrown a lot of innings this week.

“I thought Alex Boshers came in and did a good job and Dan Kubiuk threw the crap out of the ball. They did a great job. That’s all I’m going to say about our pitching.”

Boshers threw two shutout innings to keep the Wild Things within striking distance and Kubiuk tossed a scoreless top of the ninth.

Washington’s lumber, however, went into a deep slumber after New Jersey started its comeback. The Wild Things were held scoreless on only three hits over the final six innings. Jack Weinberger (6-2) was the winning pitcher and Dylan Brammer got the final three outs, including the last with the potential tying run on third base, for his eighth save.

“When the momentum was taken away from us, we had trouble starting it back up,” Vaeth said.

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.

See what people are talking about at The Community Table!

Thank you for reading!

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading. If you have a subscription, please Log In.