The Timber Rattlers' losing streak extended to five games Monday night as they dropped a 6-1 decision to Lansing, the Midwest League's best team by record this season. Wisconsin has the MWL Western Division's best overall record at 57-42, but at 66-33 the Eastern Division-leading Lugnuts are seven games better.
"That's a good ball club. They came in here, they've got good pitching, they took care of the ball, they got timely hitting and they walked around with a little swag, like they knew they were going to kick our butts. And they did," Wisconsin manager Matt Erickson said.
Wisconsin wasn't able to capitalize on a strong outing from Jacob Barnes. He allowed two runs on the night on just three hits over six innings, walking five and striking out five. He carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning.
"I saw it but it wasn't really entering my mind because at that point I had 3-4 walks already," Barnes said. "I was kind of hurting myself with the walks so I was trying to battle through the whole game."
Barnes, a 14th round pick in 2011, was making his 36th professional appearance but just his second start. He said the extended workload of starting presents a challenge.
"You kind of have to change your routine and get a new routine in that aspect. They don't really grind out for runs as much when you're starting, so that part's easier, but then again you go deeper in games," Barnes said. "I was cruising through the first 4, but the pitch count was a little higher and you start wearing out a bit if you're not used to it."
Barnes now has a 2.92 ERA over 61.2 innings this season. Erickson praised his effort.
"He's been probably our biggest surprise on the pitching staff," Erickson said. "He's been kind of a workhorse. He's a big kid, he gives you consistent innings every time out and it looks like he might get a chance now to start some more games."
Meanwhile, the Timber Rattlers were held scoreless until the ninth inning, when they plated their only run on Greg Hopkins' RBI fielders' choice. They went 1-for-9 in the game with runners in scoring position.
Barnes was followed to the mound tonight by 2012 12th round pick Eric Semmelhack, a right handed pitcher selected from UW-Milwaukee. He allowed four runs on six hits over three innings, but three of those runs came in the ninth after two bunt singles and a groundball through the hole. He struck out five and did not walk a batter.
"One thing that stood out is his tempo was good," Erickson said. "He was hungry, it was new to him. I liked his aggressiveness. In that last inning we didn't help him out, we threw the ball around a little bit, a couple of routine bunt plays we didn't make, then we threw a ball into home plate wildly. Hopefully we can clean him up a little bit and he'll pitch some good innings for us."
Tonight's game wrapped up a six game homestand for the Timber Rattlers, who resume play in Kane County on Wednesday. Tonight's loss was their fifth in a row.
"It's a little reminder we've got some work to do," Erickson said.
A Wisconsin Debut And Homecoming
Tonight we saw the Wisconsin debut of Eric Semmelhack, a 21-year-old pitcher the Brewers drafted in the 12th round this season out of UW-Milwaukee. Semmelhack had been with the team for a few days now but hadn't appeared in a game. He posted a 4.02 ERA in six starts for Helena before being called up. Counting college, the Timber Rattlers are his third team in 2012.
"Things have been pretty hectic. Just a lot of baseball and apparently a lot of different teams as we go. But it's been fun," Semmelhack said. "It's just a new life experience and I appreciate it and hope I keep moving up throughout the years and keep getting the opportunity to play baseball."
Semmelhack was told he could pitch in relief of Barnes tonight, but for now he's just taking things as they come.
"I don't know 100% what's going to happen, but there's a chance it'll happen," Semmelhack said. "I'm just here and I'm going to do what they tell me to do when they tell me to do it."
Semmelhack described himself as "kind of a power guy."
"I'm pretty much just a fastball-slider-changeup guy. I throw three pitches and tend to work ahead with my fastball," Semmelhack said. "Get outs. That's all it's about is getting outs and getting wins."
A few members of his family were in attendance to see Semmelhack debut tonight.
"I just have a couple members of my immediately family up here hopefully to watch me get in tonight," Semmelhack said. "Other than that I've got some grandparents but not a whole lot of family."