By Brenden West
Assistant Sports Editor
Dario Pizzano’s two-run bomb was all the Clinton LumberKings needed to win their first home appearance in 12 days Tuesday.
A bomb -- as in a sure thing the moment ball met bat. Pizzano pulled a 1-0 pitch from Leonardo Lorenzo to right field in the sixth inning; the ball landed a solid 20 yards behind the fence, marking Pizzano’s fourth blast of the year. And with Clinton’s bullpen having its way with the Timber Rattlers’ lineup, a one-run lead felt pretty comfortable in the 2-1 win over Wisconsin.
“I had a plan going up to the plate that I was going be looking inside,” Pizzano said. “It was a fastball, so I got my pitch, put a good swing on it, and the ball did the rest.”
On a day when Grady Wood -- Clinton’s stalwart closer for the first half of the 2013 season -- was called up to the High Desert Mavericks, a group of new faces combined for eight consecutive shutout innings. LumberKings starter Victor Sanchez let up the only Rattlers’ run -- unearned -- in the first frame off a Victor Roache single. After that, Clinton pitchers were almost untouchable, allowing only four more hits and combining for nine strikeouts.
It was a solid home debut for two LumberKing newbies: Charles Kaalekahi earned the win on four innings, a strikeout and only two hits allowed; Mark Bordonaro earned his first save with two innings and four strikeouts.
Clinton manager Eddie Menchaca said that with Wood gone, it cleared the way for a new player to shine in the second half.
“You want to see who’s next. Grady took off, and you want to see who’s going to take the ball and run with it,” Menchaca said. “We could have one or two or three guys in the pen do it.”
For a while, it looked as though the LumberKings were en route to being shut out. Jabari Henry walked to lead off the first inning, followed by a Ketel Marte bunt single, putting two men on with no outs. Lorenzo sent down three straight, ending the inning by fanning Janelfry Zorrilla.
Tyler Marlette doubled for Clinton in the second, and he advanced to third base on a sacrifice fly but remained there when the inning ended on a popout by Martin Peguero. Lorenzo sent down nine straight batters from the third to the fifth inning.
When Pizzano homered, scoring Marte in the process, it served as Clinton’s last hit of the game. The LumberKings made up for their plate woes with solid defense and continual mound dominance. It was highlighted by a 6-4-3 double play by Peguero, Marte and Taylor Ard in the seventh. In the eighth, a diving snag by Henry along the foul line in right saved a potential game-tying run.
The game ended with Bordonaro striking out the side in the ninth.
Although Bordonaro was lights out -- sending down six of seven batters faced -- Menchaca didn’t commit to making him full-time closer, yet.
“We want to put everybody in different situations. We thought Bordonaro would be the guy to give us two strong innings tonight, and he showed it,” he said. “Eight straight zeroes. Anytime you see that, it makes you feel good about the bullpen.”
Kaalekahi said he was splitting time with Sanchez and typically fills a starter’s role. In three appearances with Clinton, the Ewa Beach, Hawaii, native has made two starts -- both road no-decisions.
“You’re always trying to work hard to move up,” Kaalekahi said, adding he was satisfied with a debut win. “It always feels good to know your stuff’s working.”
The win brings Clinton to 4-1 since the All-Star break. With all Midwest League teams starting from scratch, it helps keep pace with Cedar Rapids, Quad Cities (both 5-0) and Beloit (also 4-1). Wisconsin, meanwhile, fell to 0-5 since the restart.
Game 2 of the four-game homestand continues tonight at 7. Clinton sends right-hander Matt Anderson to take on the Timber Rattlers’ Eric Semmelhack.