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The weather was crisp; the team was not.
The Nationals arrived in Kenosha in time to take their first legitimate round of BP and infield prior to Monday's game against the Kings. In retrospect, show-and-go might have been a better call.
Regardless, there was a game to be played. The Kings posted single tallies in the first and second innings and a crooked 2 spot in the fourth and never looked back. The Nats hit some balls hard, but few were rewarded with hits in the box score. The wind made sure of that.
Johnny Keane led the Nats with two hits and an RBI. Big head Jake Kolasinski returned from his tour of professional tryout camps to double in a run and push a second home with a ground out.
Next up is a rematch with the Sheboygan A's on Thursday night at beautiful Fred Zirkel Field in McCarty Park, West Allis. Assuming it doesn't rain, it will be the Nationals home opener. First pitch is set for 7:30pm.
It has been said in baseball that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes its a draw. Or something like that.
Wednesday night the Nationals traveled to Sheboygan for a State League matchup against the A's and the two teams traded body blows and roundhouses until the paid, but impartial, arbiter of the contest determined that enough was enough. Invoking a little known and unwritten rule of baseball, he helped expedite a speedy end to otherwise enjoyable contest between the two rivals that weren't interested in going home without a W.
That unwritten rule states that all weeknight games played by players without half days at work the following day must be decided by the 12th inning or before the witching hour/local curfew. If neither team agrees to succomb by their own volition, then he (the paid arbiter) is authorized to use the powers vested in him by the Umpires Association to bring a swift and merciful end to the contest by issuing intentional walks on behalf of the road pitcher until the winning run scores. Well done, sir. You get an "A" for effort and execution. Someone somewhere is proud.
Before the final outcome, it was a well played, enjoyable and competitive back and forth battle between two teams with high expectations for the 2017 season. The A's scored first with two runs in the second, but the Nats responded with three of their own in the top of the third. Not to be outdone, the A's matched those three to grab a 5-3 lead after three innings. A hustle run in the fifth brought the Nationals closer at 5-4, but the A's matched with a run in the bottom half of the inning to recapture a 2 runs lead at 6-4. Dan Scallon's two out RBI triple in the sixth scored Shey Smith to bring the Nats back to within a run leading to an exciting eighth inning, two out rally started by pinch runner Adam Karas' stolen base, followed by Kyle Kalkopf's pinch hit single, and finished by Scallon's second two out RBI of the contest to knot the score at 6.
At this point all hitters with day jobs began to fatigue and impressive pitching on both sides took center stage. Fast forward to the 11th and a story already told.
Once of the nice things about baseball is that there's always another game tomorrow, or in the case of the Nationals, two State League games this Saturday vs Oshkosh. It'll be the home opener for the locals and tickets are still available down the line near the bullpens...er, the areas where pitchers warm up.
Another season. Another Saturday afternoon split. New faces; same outcome.
Upholding the tradition of their Nationals ancestors, the 2017 spent 5 hours on a Saturday afternoon playing baseball only to come away with a win and a loss. In an interesting new spin though, this year's team didn't come out flat at 1pm. Might be because there were 4 rested college guys in the lineup or might have just been a fluke. Regardless, the Nats took game one behind self named, "bulldog" Aaron Woods and future fifth ballot borderline Hall of Famer Curt Pryal winning 9-3.
Knowing his manager wouldn't allow him a complete game in May, Woods maximized his pitch count to full effect. The twenty something lefty and international lover utilized numerous full counts, balancing walk and strikeout outcomes, to earn his second win of the young season. Woods' unconventional approach has made him nearly unhittable this season; He's allowed only 2 hits in 10 innings pitched.
Pryal, also knowing his manager well and his bias for productivity and positivity, continued his torrid offensive pace with 3 timely situational hits, including his second homer, and 3 more RBI. Pryal now stands alone in the cherished 2 - 0 club (for those not in the know, that's 2 homers and 0 steals) Because he's not a stat guy, this writer will let the world know that he now leads the team with 13 RBI.
Game two went mercifully swiftly with the Nationals falling by a score of 1-0. The Nationals remain winless all time in contests where they've failed to push a run across the plate.
If there are positives to be taken from shutout losses.....if......they would be that the pitching efforts of Bob Herrick and Kanyon Fellers were admirable. If not for a dropped fourth inning ball, the game might still be going on.
Next up for the Nationals are the Sheboygan A's. Your hometown favorites make the scenic drive to destination Sheboygan this Wed the 31st and will take on the A's in a 7:30pm tilt unless it rains like it usually does after we arrive.