The butterflies were fluttering for Zak Wasilewski, and the Greeneville Astros exploited it with success.
Pitching in front of numerous family and friends in what was his first-ever appearance on the mound at Bowen Field, Wasilewski struggled early, finished up with a strong third inning and was then finished until next time.
“I felt pretty good, just a little bit of nerves and some pre-game jitters,” Wasilewski said. “I felt like my stuff was pretty good, I left some pitches up, but for the most part I did pretty well.”
After being blanked by Bluefield in Thursday’s season opener, the Greeneville Astros jumped on Wasilewski with four runs in the opening two innings, and kept the bats going, collecting 13 hits in a 9-5 Appalachian League win over the Bluefield Blue Jays.
An audience of 878 was on hand, many of whom were supporting Wasilewski, a standout pitcher at Tazewell High School before being drafted with the 14th round by Toronto in the 2011 draft.
“I couldn’t thank everybody enough for coming out and supporting us and supporting myself,” said Wasilewski, who spent last summer playing in the Gulf Coast League in Florida. “I really appreciate it.”
Not only did Greeneville collect 13 hits, but the Astros took advantage of five wild pitches, seven walks, a hit-batsman and two errors to pull away when the Blue Jays rallied to within 4-2 in the third and then 7-5 going into the seventh.
“We had chances to get caught back up, we just didn’t get back into the game,” Bluefield manager Dennis Holmberg said. “We kept falling further and further behind...”
Eric Arce, who had a three-run triple in Thursday’s opener, clubbed a two-run home run in the sixth to narrow the margin to 7-5. Arce finished with two hits, while D.J. Davis — the 17th overall selection in the 2012 draft — had a triple, double and single for the Jays, who finished with nine hits.
“Arce hit the home run, that was big, got us back in the ball game a little bit and got another base hit,” Holmberg said. “D.J. needed that, he got the triple out there and a double. Everyone of those guys, everything that they do is building blocks hopefully in the right direction.”
Greeneville, which had 12 singles and a triple among its 13 hits, jumped on Wasilewski in the first with a single by Jack Mayfield, He moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a ground ball and scored on a second wild pitch by the Tazewell lefty.
Three more runs scored in the second, aided by an infield hit by Angel Ibanez, who hit a bouncer that was fielded by first baseman Matt Dean, but Wasilewski was late covering the bag. Wassy — as he is known — then hit Wallace Gonzalez with a pitch, and Juan Santana loaded the bases with a perfect bunt down the third base line.
A double play off the bat of Mayfield allowed the Jays to trade a run for two outs, but Marc Wik followed with a triple off the top of the right-center field wall to score a run, and the score grew to 4-0 on an single to right by Darwin Rivera.
Wasilewski did work a perfect third, but was removed due to pitch count. He left having gone three innings, allowing six hits, four runs, while striking out two and walking two, while throwing 53 pitches.
“That wasn’t a bad outing, but the (second) inning he was late covering first base and that led to a run and those guys go through that every day in spring training, there is no excuse for being late,” Holmberg said. “Nobody knows how nervous he was except for himself, but I am sure he had some butterflies.
“You build off of that, you overcome that and in the second outing you will have less of those and hopefully be more confident...”
Meanwhile, Greeneville had their own lefty in Christopher Lee who retired the first seven batters he faced, striking out five of them — including four a in a row — before Jonathan Davis singled to right in the third. He moved to third on an error and scored on a wild pitch. Alexis Maldonado also walked and scored on a single by D.J. Davis.
Lee was replaced in the fourth by Tyler Brunneman, the second of four Greeneville pitchers, who picked up the win. J.D. Osborne worked the final two innings for the save. The Astros’ hurlers struck out 16 batters and walked just two.
Albert Tirado replaced Wasilewski in the fourth, but ran into trouble in the fifth. After snaring a wicked line drive off the bat of Bobby Borchering, the next three batters reached and all scored to extend the lead to 6-2 on a single by Ibanez, an error and another wild pitch.
Bluefield added a run in the fifth on a double by D.J. Davis and a single from Dawel Lugo, who had three hits on Thursday. The Blue Jays pulled within two in the sixth after Matt Dean reached on an error and Arce clubbed a pitch by Alan Abreu over the right field fence.
However, Greeneville just kept hitting the ball, adding another run in the seventh on a wild pitch, and finishing the scoring in the ninth on an RBI single from Santana.
“They swung the bats pretty good,” said Holmberg, who used five pitchers in the game. “They hit some balls hard and a wild pitch got a guy all the way from first to third and then another wild pitch and the guy scored. We were late covering first base which leads to a run, a couple of other errant plays that were just sort of gimme runs.
“Although they out-hit us and they out-runned us, we gave them maybe three or four runs here or there.”
Ibanez led the Astros (1-1) with three hits, while Edwin Gomez, Wik, Rivera and Santana had two apiece. Greeneville had just five RBIs among its nine runs.
Bluefield (1-1) will seek to capture the first series of the season tonight against the Astros. Canadian-born hurler Tom Robson, a fourth round pick in 2011 will start, with highly-touted Dominican Jairo LaBourt following him on the mound.
“Two pretty good arms, piggybacking again, hopefully we will get something like we did out of the first game, eight or nine innings,” said Holmberg, whose Blue Jays used just two pitchers with effectiveness on Thursday. “If we get eight innings then we have the bullpen to deal with.
“These guys are on four inning or 60-pitch count. It is kind of like whatever comes first. It will be their first starts too and they will have to settle in and get into a routine out on the mound.”
Wasilewski’s next appearance will come in relief of Tirado in five days. He will be anxious to get back on the mound.
“It just a learning process, just learning from it and doing better the next time I come out,” he said. “You just have to learn from it and keep working on the stuff in practice and keep it going.”
—Contact Brian Woodson
at Bowen Field
Greeneville..............130 030 101 — 9 13 2
Bluefield...................002 012 000 — 5 9 2
Christopher Lee, Tyler Brunnemann (4), Alan Abreu (6), J.D. Osborne (8) and Alfredo Gonzalez. Zak Wasilewski, Alberto Tirado (4), Yeyfry Del Rosario (7), Francisco Gracesqui (9), Adaric Kelly (9) and Jorge Saez. W—Brunneman (1-0); L—Wasilewski (0-1); S—Osborne (1). HR—Arce (1). Att—878.