Homestand Heartbreak: Rattlers Drop Game 2 to TinCaps

20120913-181208.jpgby Kevin Kimmes

Despite being delayed by an hour due to rain, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers managed to get Game 2 of their best of 5 series with the Fort Wayne TinCaps in on Thursday afternoon. The results however, were not exactly to their liking.

The Rattlers were downed by the TinCaps 5-1, and now must play the remaining games of the series in enemy territory. When asked about today’s loss, Chad Pierce said the following:

“If we score 4 runs, we can afford to give up 3. Today, we scored 1 run, so we needed to give up zero. You know, I battled, I just wish I had thrown better. That 2 run inning (top of the 5th) I was leaving balls up. Luckily, they were mishitting throughout the game.”

The lone run today came in the bottom of the bottom of the 4th when 1st baseman Nick Ramirez crushed a solo homer to center that bounced on the outfield walkway before disappearing over the parks exterior wall. Ramirez, who led the team in home runs during the regular season with 16, was unfazed by the task of having to win 2 games on the road in Fort Wayne:

“It’s just a game. It doesn’t make the game any tougher. We just have to go to their place and have an us against the world mentality. We’ve been pretty good on the road this year, so I don’t think it changes anything.”

If there is a silver lining to be found in today’s loss, it has to be that despite the offensive struggles the team has seen in the first 2 games (6 total hits in 2 games, with 2 runs in Game 1 coming off of wild pitches), the team is heading to Fort Wayne with a series split.

“There is definitely a belief that we can get this done,” Rattlers manager Matt Erickson stated in his post game press conference. “We’ve won a lot of series this year, and we’ve been alright on the road as well, and that’s what it boils down to. It’s a 3 game series now and we need to go on the road and take 2 out of 3. But, no, there is no loss of hope by any means just by losing this ballgame.”

Friday is a scheduled travel day for both teams, with the series resuming on Saturday evening in Fort Wayne with Game 3 scheduled for a 6:05 pm start.

An Interview With Timber Rattlers 1st Baseman Nick Ramirez

by Kevin Kimmes

At just 23 years old, Timber Rattler’s 1st baseman Nick Ramirez has experienced more in his short baseball career than many players will if they play well into their twilight years. As a member of Team USA, Nick was afforded the opportunity to travel the world doing what he loves, playing baseball.

Yesterday, I sat down and talked to Nick about his time as a 1st baseman/reliever for Cal State Fullerton, Team USA, the injury that left him sidelined earlier this season, and what it means to play for a contender.

CCC: I looked into your back-story a little bit, and discovered that not only are you a power hitting first baseman, but you also have some experience as a reliever and were the closer for Cal State Fullerton.

NR: In college, my freshman year, I was thrown into that later in the season. I think I only had 7 opportunities to save in my freshman year. Ever since that, I liked the adrenalin rush, so my sophomore year I planned on doing it the whole year, so that’s what I did do.

It was fun to play 1st base for 8 innings, then run down to the bullpen, throw like 10 pitches, and then it’s “All right, I’m hot!” I did that my sophomore and junior year.

I really don’t like pitching, but I compete and I wanted to win the game, so if I feel like I give the team the best opportunity to do it, then I’m going to compete to let our team win, and that’s what we were doing. I kind of fell into the roll of, “If you give me the ball, then alright, let’s go!”

It was always fun to hear the guys say: “Alright Nick, let’s go home.” “Alright, let’s go.”

CCC: So, do you think it’s one of those things in the future where you’re going to be up in the big leagues, it’s the late innings, and you’re going to get the call from the bench, “Ok, let’s put it away”?

NR: No, I don’t think so, not any more. That whole thing is in my past and I want to be in the big leagues as a first baseman and not worry about pitching any more.

CCC: Now speaking of first base, you currently lead the team in home runs (13) and RBI (55). As a a power hitting first baseman, and with the void left by the departure of Prince Fielder in the organization, do you feel it presents an opportunity for a player like you to make an advancement to the majors in short order?

NR: I wouldn’t say that because there are guys in the organization already who are capable. I’m just out here every day trying to get better and be a better player everyday. There are plenty of things I need to work on and when the time for me to be in the big leagues is ready, then I guess that’s when I’m going to be there.

CCC: Being a relatively young guy, a lot of guys your age are lucky if they have played across the country. You, on the other hand, have played around the world as part of Team USA. What was that experience like for you?

NR: That was definitely an eye opening experience with how much talent there is around the world, especially with Cuba. Cuba was unbelievable when we played them. We played Chinese Taipei…

CCC: In which you hit a walk off single in the 11th to win the game.

NR: Yeah, that was crazy because every country that we played plays baseball differently. It was definitely fun to see all the different countries and how they play baseball and all that stuff. It was fun to travel around the world and get treated how we did and get taken care of.

CCC: Earlier in the year you had the hamate fracture in your hand, one of the more common baseball injuries. What was it like having to start the season off in the rehab process and then having to come in with the season already underway?

NR: It definitely wasn’t easy and wasn’t something that I had planned on. It was kind of just a freak thing. I’ve asked myself probably 100 times, “If it didn’t break in Spring Training, when would it have broke?”, because they told me if it didn’t do it then, it was destined to happen.

It was just tough going through the rehab and staying mentally tough knowing that I’m in Arizona not doing anything with a cast on my hand when all my buddies are playing. I’m texting my buddies, “Hey, how are you doing, blah, blah, blah…” but their texts back weren’t “How are you doing?” they were “When are you going to swing a bat again?”

Yeah, it was tough to do all of that, but there was no better feeling than once I got cleared and heard “Ok, you’re heading out.”

CCC: So, now that you’re here, you’re playing on a contender. You guys have already punched the ticket into the post season, so, what is that like and how do you keep focused knowing that you are headed to the post season with almost 1/4 of the season left to play?

NR: We have a good group here. No one is really taking anything easy, especially with the playoffs already guaranteed. This is a group of guys who likes to win. No one here likes to lose, no one settles for anything either. We go out there and compete everyday, and most of the time when we compete, we are going to win. So, that’s nice because it’s hard enough to lose. We go out here and try to win every game regardless of the playoffs.

CCC: Final question: I bought a couple of packs of 2011 Topps Pro Debut a few weeks ago, and I got my first Nick Ramirez Wisconsin Timber Rattlers card.

NR: Nice.

CCC: Growing up did you collect cards?

NR: Not really. To tell you the truth, I wasn’t much of a cards kid growing up, I was too busy playing baseball. I’ve never really collected cards, but it’s kind of cool now to see how many cards I have, especially since I just signed (with Milwaukee) last year. I think I’ve already got 3 or 4 cards out.

CCC: Looking online, you’ve got some Team USA stuff, some Bowman, the Pro Debut…

NR: Yeah, it’s cool to have people ask me to sign stuff all the time. It’s pretty cool.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @N_Ram3314.