On a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium Wisconsin and the Peoria Chiefs played one of the best games I've seen this year. Wisconsin scored three runs in the first inning today on a pair of doubles and two hit batsmen to take an early lead and nearly made it hold up, but Peoria chipped away with two runs in the third and tied the game on a single from second base prospect Zeke DeVoss with two outs in the ninth inning.
Wisconsin, however, had some two-out magic of their own in the bottom of the ninth. After Rafael Neda grounded out and Carlos George flew out to start the inning, Yadiel Rivera singled to left and was driven home by right fielder John Dishon's walkoff double. It was Dishon's first at-bat after entering as a defensive replacement in the eighth, and it fulfilled a prediction made by Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson before the inning.
"Before the inning started, we were coming up on the bottom of the ninth and they'd just tied it up and Matty (Erickson) looked at me told me, 'It's weird how things work. You show up at the ballpark and you get the day off, and you come in as a defensive replacement and now you're going to get a walkoff hit.' And it just so happened that it worked out that way," Dishon said.
Before coming into the game Dishon had actually spent the first seven innings serving as Wisconsin's first base coach for the day. He said being on the field as a coach is different, but fun. "It gets you a different perspective as far as seeing your players hit, and your teammates hit, and giving them a little insight from the view on that side as far as if their timing's off, what they're doing," Dishon said. "It keeps you in the game, it keeps you focused, and helps you be a part of it."
Hours eariler, 2011 seventh round pick David Goforth was Wisconsin's starting pitcher. It was only the second professional start for the former Ole Miss Rebel who John Sickels rated as the Brewers' #13 prospect entering the season. He pitched the first four innings today and allowed two runs on four hits, walking two and striking out three. He said it wasn't his best outing.
"I kind of, from the first inning on, just kind of grounded it out," Goforth said. "Obviously I didn't have my best stuff, left a lot of balls up in the zone and threw a lot of pitches for four innings. So it's definitely something I want to improve on over these next four days before my third start."
Goforth's fastball was clocked at 98 mph today. He said there may be an intimidation factor created by pitching that fast, but also stressed a need for control.
"The thing is, in this league guys can hit fastballs if you leave balls up or over the middle of the plate," Goforth said. "It really doesn't matter how hard you throw, I think. if you're struggling throwing strikes and you have to throw, say, 98 right on the middle of the plate guys can time that up and hit it."
Goforth is still adjusting to life as a starting pitcher, but said he likes the routine. "You know the days you're going to throw, it's every fifth day, so you know ahead of time I'm throwing this day, I'm throwing that day," Goforth said. "So it kind of helps you a little bit to get prepared. You know what you have to do in between those starts, you know what day your bullpen's on, the days leading up to the start you know what you have to do to be prepared."
Goforth was followed to the mound by 2011 35th round pick and Fond du Lac native Chad Pierce, who pitched four shutout innings to hold the 3-2 lead. Wisconsin closer Seth Harvey allowed Peoria to tie the game in the top of the ninth, but picked up the win when the Rattlers walked off in the bottom half.
Follow the jump for a note on Mark Williams, who has come all the way from a Division 3 national championship to independent ball to Wisconsin's rotation in the last twelve months, and full audio from all of today's interviews.
I had a chance before today's game to talk to pitcher Mark Williams, a day removed from his first professional start on Friday night. Williams is 22 and was a non-drafted free agent out of Division 3 Marietta (Ohio) college in 2011. Williams pitched four innings and allowed one run last night in place of Brandon Williamson, who was promoted to Huntsville earlier in the week.
Despite finding out about the start just two days in advance, Williams said he was happy with his results. "I thought it was pretty good, especially for my first start in about a year," Williams said. "I thought I had pretty good command, I didn't have a great feel for my four seamer or slider last night, so I just kind of exempt that from the equation and went two-seam-changeup last night. It seemed to work out pretty well."
Williams said he loves throwing a changeup, and is working on adding a two-seam fastball to his arsenal along with improving his slider. "Two-seam, I really started playing with that last year in Washington in indy ball and it's really taken off, and the slider is a work in progress, some days it's good and some days it's not. It's just a matter of how I feel that day."
Williams spent six weeks with the Washington WildThings of the Frontier League after college last season before signing with the Brewers. His pitching coach in Washington was Mark Dewey, who joined him in the Brewer organization this season as the new pitching coach in Brevard County.
"Mark Dewey did a great job with me there working out of the pen, now he's with high-A in Brevard," Williams said. "I honestly think it's a blessing I got to work with him. I got my opportunity and started pitching well, and I'm excited to be here. I'm having a blast and just enjoying it."
As promised, here's the full audio from my interviews today: