CLINTON — Dylan Unsworth says there’s nothing special about Sunday afternoon games for him, but Clinton LumberKings manager Eddie Menchaca still might want to have the right-hander’s turn in the rotation come up on Sunday.
With the LumberKings playing on consecutive days for the first time in a week, Unsworth improved to 2-0 with his second solid Sunday outing in a row. He limited Beloit to seven hits and two runs over eight innings in a 7-4 Midwest League baseball victory at Ashford University Field.
“There’s nothing about Sundays; it’s just getting in a good routine, throwing strikes and putting the ball in play,” Unsworth, a 20-year-old right-hander from South Africa, said after improving to 2-0.
Sunday’s win followed a doubleheader split against Wisconsin on Saturday after the LumberKings had been postponed the three previous days.
“It was nice to play a nine-inning game,” Clinton manager Eddie Menchaca said Sunday. Because of inclement weather, Clinton had been rained out six times in the previous 10 days, and all eight of its games played during that span were seven-inning affairs as parts of doubleheaders. “The boys played well even though they’re not in a groove because of the weather.”
Unsworth has been in a groove in his past two games.
He allowed two runs on eight hits over seven innings while walking one and striking out two last Sunday in a 3-2 win against Cedar Rapids. He struck out five and didn’t issue a walk this time.
He has had to be sharp both times, too, because the games were close. Although he led all the way Sunday after Dario Pizzano drove in a first-inning run with a bases-loaded groundout, the LumberKings didn’t break open the game until the bottom of the seventh inning.
“It definitely does put a little pressure on me, and I love pressure,” Unsworth said of pitching in a close game.
Unsworth blanked Beloit for the first six innings.
“I was keeping them off balance, throwing inside and outside, and throwing my fastball with good command,” he said. “My changeup was pretty good, and my curveball was pretty good.”
Unsworth never faced more than four batters in an inning until the seventh, when the Snappers finally broke through. John Wooten singled with one out and scored on a two-out double to left by Jacob Tanis to make it 2-1.
But the LumberKings provided plenty of insurance in the bottom half of the inning.
A one-out bases-loaded walk to Tyler Marlette — Clinton’s second walk with the bases loaded in as many innings — made it a 3-1 game. One out later, Jordy Lara delivered a two-run single. Jabari Henry, the recipient of the bases-loaded walk in the sixth, followed with a two-run double to left to make it 7-1.
“We talked about it before batting practice due to what happened in the second game (Saturday) that the pressure is on the pitcher in that situation,” Menchaca said. “We took advantage of it with walks, then we took advantage of the guy (Beloit reliever Tucker Healy) falling behind to score some runs.”
Now, Menchaca would like to take advantage of some nice weather.
“This is my third year here, and by far this is the worst as far as weather,” he said. “It’s got to be frustrating for the new managers in the league.
“It’s tough to get in a groove as a pitcher or a hitter, and as a manager it’s tough to get everybody involved.”
In Saturday’s doubleheader, Clinton opened with a 4-2 win against Wisconsin. Pizzano’s two-run double in the bottom of the third inning snapped a 1-1 tie.
The Timber Rattlers came back to win Game 2 2-1, scoring single runs in each of the first two innings. Mitch Haniger’s two-out home run in the first inning was the big blow, but the second run — which scored on a one-out groundout — was unearned because of a passed ball on the previous play.
Clinton scored its run in the third, although the damage could have been much worse — the point Menchaca addressed Sunday.
Henry walked, Brock Hebert reached on a bunt single and Timothy Lopes followed with another bunt. He was safe at first and Henry came around to score when pitcher Michael Strong committed a throwing error on the play. Another error loaded the bases, but Strong retired the next three batters, the first two on strikeouts.
The LumberKings are back in action tonight with a 6:30 home game against Beloit.
More photos To see more photos from Sunday's win by the LumberKings, check out the online photo gallery at Clintonherald.smugmug.com