33 degrees. It’s not exactly what most folks would consider to be ideal baseball weather, but when you are playing spring ball in the Midwest League these things can pretty much be expected.
Today is Opening Day for the MiLB (Minor League Baseball for the uninitiated) and in Appleton, WI the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are facing the Peoria Chiefs to start the season for the 6th time since 1995. While the brave souls in the seats are sparse, I’m told that the club level overhead is packed to near capacity. As I said before, it is 33 degrees at game time.
Most of the players on the Opening Day roster have never faced these kinds of conditions before, a fact that Clint Coulter expounded upon:
“…we have a lot of guys who hadn’t played in anything like this and then also this is their first full season, first time they’ve really played in front of a crowd like we’ve got here.”
The Rattlers manage to strike first blood in the 3rd inning after Rafael Neda singles and is driven home on a triple by Omar Garcia. Garcia, who made a spectacular diving grab in the top half of the inning, brought his A-game with him showing skills on both offense and defense.
Wisconsin starter Taylor Williams was dazzling on the mound for the Rattlers striking out 7 in 5 innings of work. “I just tried to go out there and command my fastball, command my zone, and give the defense behind me a chance to make plays,” Taylor said post game.
“Dominant,” was how Rattlers skipper Matt Erickson described Williams performance. “He was pounding the zone early and obviously he was putting away people too. He gave us a great chance early in that ballgame to win that game.”
However, the tides began to turn when the ball was turned over to Williams’ tandem partner, Tyler Alexander.
In the 6th Alexander would yield a run, tying the game at 1. The Rattlers would take the lead back in the bottom of the inning (2-1), but that lead would be short lived.
The top of the 7th would become what can only be described as a massacre. Alexander would load the bases with only 1 out leading to his removal. His replacement, Chris Razo, would fair no better. By the time the dust cleared the Chiefs had batted around and the Rattlers found themselves on the losing end of a 7-2 score.
Wisconsin would battle back in the bottom of the 7th when a Michael Ratterree triple would be driven home on a sacrifice fly to deep center by Taylor Brennan. It would be the only run for the Rattlers in the inning, it’s relevance erased when the Chiefs would tally yet another run in the top of the 8th bringing the score to 8-3.
A Clint Coulter homerun in the bottom of the 9th would bring the score to 8-4, however it would be all the offense the Rattlers could muster.
The Rattlers return to action Friday night at 6:35 PM for game 2 of this 4 game Opening Week matchup.
Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to creamcitycables.com and a former MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.