Coming into the Tuesday morning game against the visiting Tucson Sidewinders, Beavers starting pitcher Jack Cassel had allowed no earned runs in 27 of his last 28 innings of work; the one hiccup being a three run second inning (two earned) last Thursday. Cassel’s solid pitching of late had dropped his earned run average from almost nine to 3.08, good enough for sixth in the Pacific Coast League.
Cassel has attributed his recent success to being able to shift his focus more on getting one batter at a time, rather than focusing on working through six plus innings, which is a prerequisite for starting pitchers. He showed that poise in the first inning after giving up a home run to the Tucson lead off hitter, Danny Richar. On a 1-and-2 pitch, Richar turned and lined the ball over the fence in right. Cassel made short work of the next three batters, retiring them in order with a couple strikeouts and a fly out to center.
With one out in the third, the Beavers defense seemed to take a short hiatus that led to another run for the Sidewinders. Richar hit a line drive right at Vince Sinisi in right field, but the ball bounced out of his glove for an error. The next batter hit a one hopper toward shortstop that Paul McAnulty, who was playing in at third base, couldn’t quite handle and let skip out of his glove for an infield single. Jeff Salazar followed with a double to left-center field to score Richar. The Beavers elected to intentionally walk Chris Carter to load the bases and had the decision pay off perfectly, as Jamie D’Antona hit right back to Cassel who threw home for the second out and Luke Carlin gunned it to first for the third out.
Cassel helped his own cause in a big way in the Beavers half of the third by smashing the first pitch he saw out into the street in left field to bring the Beavers back within a run. The homerun was the first of Cassel’s career and also his first hit of the season.
The Sidewinders would tack on another run in the fourth inning by stringing together three two out hits, including a run scoring double by Richar that gave Tucson a 3-1 edge. Tucson had a .288 team batting average coming into the game, which is second best in the PCL. A vast contrast to the Beavers PCL worst .236 average.
The Beavers brought the score to 3-2 by manufacturing a National League style run. Josh Howard walked to lead off the inning and Cassel laid down a picturesque sacrifice bunt to move him to second. Adam Shabala then singled on a liner over the second baseman’s outstretched glove to plate Howard.
One run rallies were thwarted on several different occasions during the game. The Beavers had leadoff runners on in all but three innings but weren’t able to capitalize. Royce Huffman led off the sixth by lining a triple into the right field corner. With no one out, Michael Johnson flew out to Romero in right field, who made a strong throw on a line to the plate to gun down Huffman trying to score. Again in the eighth, a leadoff single by Shabala went awry when he was thrown out attempting to steal.
Cassel was relieved after the seventh, still trailing 3-2. He scattered nine hits in his seven innings of work, striking out six and walking two. Jared Wells struck out the side in the eighth inning in relief of Cassel, but Aaron Rakers worked a shaky ninth. A walk, three singles and a wild pitch plated two insurance runs for the Sidewinders off Rakers, which sealed the 5-2 win for the Sidewinders.
The Beavers and Sidewinders play the third game of the series Wednesday morning with another 11:05 am start. Mike Thompson will try to pick up his first win of the season as the starter for the Beavers. He is 0-4 on the season with a 14.04 ERA. The Sidewinders pitcher, Dustin Nippert, will also be looking to get first win of the season; he is 0-2.