Catcher Max Garret showed what manager Bart Zeller saw in the Gonzaga product as the Washington Wild Things, presented by Washington Financial, notched their second win of the season in a 5-2 victory over the Rockford Aviators at Aviator Stadium Wednesday afternoon.
In his first professional start Garrett displayed his talents offensively and defensively as he hit his first career home run and drove in two RBI in a 2-for-4 performance.
Both starting pitchers gave their teams excellent starts on Educational Day at Aviator Stadium.
Rockford’s Dave Rucinski would take a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but Garrett wouldend the hitless streak and shutout on the first pitch he saw for an opposite field homer.
Rucinski would go seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out eight. Last year’s All-Star Gary Lee would out duel Rucinski as he went seven strong, with one run on six hits, striking out six in the win.
The Aviators (1-4) would get on the board first in the top of the second when second baseman Ted Obregon singled in right fielder Michael Hur to make it 1-0 for the home team. Lee and Garrett would combine on a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out play to end the inning unharmed.
After being held hitless in the first five frames, the Wild Things (2-3) offense awoke in the top of the sixth.
Garrett hit an opposite field bomb, to knot the game at one. Centerfielder Darian Sandford would bunt for a base hit and register his fifth stolen base of the year two pitches later. Right fielder Gus Benusa would attempt to sacrifice himself to advance Sandford, but Rockford catcher Eric Bainer attempted to throw out Sandford and both runners would be safe on the play.
Rucinski would get called for a balk by the home plate umpire and allow Sandford to score, making it 2-1 Wild Things.
Once the Wild Things took the lead, Rockford looked primed to take that lead back in the bottom half of the inning. First baseman Kenny Bryant beat out a ground ball to give the Aviators a base runner on with one out. Lee and Garrett would connect on their second strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out of the game when Lee brought the heat to third baseman Ray Delvalle and then trapped center fielder Alvaro Ramirez in a run down for out number three.
In the top of the eighth Rockford manager Rich Austin went to the bullpen to bring in lefty Nathan O’Brien to face the left-hand hitting Bensua. Bensua would win the battle as he launched a homerun over the right field wall. Washington got a much needed insurance run to take the score to 3-1.
The Aviators were able to drive in another run in the bottom of the eighth when pinch-hitter Greg Van Horn singled up the middle for his first hit of the year, driving in Ramirez from second to close the gap to 3-2. The next batter Bryant looked like he gave the Aviators the lead back when he crushed an Alfonso Yevoli ball to deep center, but Sandford made a tremendous leaping catch at the wall for out number three.
Garret Granitz, closer of the Aviators, would pitch the top of the ninth and give up a run when Garrett collected his second hit and RBI of the game driving in fellow rookie Stewart Ijames, increasing the score to 4-2. Two batters later the Wild Things would run the squeeze play with Bensua at the plate allowing shortstop Shain Stoner to push the score to 5-2.
Wild Thing closer Orlando Santos came in and shut the door for his first save of the year. The Wild Things trio of Lee, Yevoli and Santos would allow zero walks in the win.
Washington and Rockford will close the series on Thursday with first pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. Air time on WJPA 95.3 FM is 7:55.
The Wild Things will return to CONSOL Energy Park to celebrate their 12th home opener on Friday, May 24th. They will host the Southern Illinois Miners to a three game set. Tickets, including special picnic tickets are available at the box office.