GRAND CHUTE, WI - A trio of Wisconsin Timber Rattlers all-stars combined to inch the team closer to a Midwest League playoff spot with a 4-0 win over the Beloit Snappers Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Pitchers Drew Gagnon and Tommy Toledo combined for twelve strikeouts and held the potent Beloit offense to no runs on five hits. Greg Hopkins homered and doubled to pace Wisconsin's offense.
Beloit (36-26) entered Saturday's game with a .263 batting average and with 306 runs scored. They were tied for the league lead in team batting average and are second in the league in runs scored. They threatened to score in the second inning as they put runners on first and second with back to back singles. Gagnon got Adam Bryan to ground into a force out at second base and Kyle Knudson to ground into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
Wisconsin (39-23) grabbed the lead in the bottom of the second. Hopkins launched his eighth home run of the season, a solo shot with one out, to left field. After the home run, Ben McMahan and Chadwin Stang singled. Then, Rafael Neda walked to load the bases.
Adrian Williams drew a four pitch walk to force in a run. Wisconsin got their third run of the inning when Beloit starter Tyler Jones hit Brandon Macias to force in run.
Jones settled in after the second inning and would strike out nine over six inning, but the damage had been done. Plus, Gagnon had settled into a groove of his own. Beloit would not get another hit off Gagnon until the sixth inning.
The Snappers had a runner at first with one out when Nate Roberts singled to put runners at first and second. The play also brought two big Minnesota Twins prospects - Eddie Rosario and Miguel Sano - to the plate as the potential tying runs. In the first 62 games of the season, Rosario and Sano combined for 21 home runs and 84 RBI. Gagnon, a top prospect in the Milwaukee Brewers organization, was not bothered by the prospect of facing that duo of Beloit batters.
The Rattlers right-hander struck out Rosario on three pitches and got Sano to pop out to short to end the inning.
Drew Leachman doubled to lead off the Snappers seventh inning. Gagnon retired Jhon Goncalves, but paid a bit of a price doing it. A grounder back to the mound hit Gagnon in the chest. He got the out at first, but Goncalves was the final batter Gagnon would face. That last pitch was also number 100 on the night for Gagnon and he turned the game over to Tommy Toledo.
The Rattlers reliever stranded Leachman at second base by retiring the final two batters of the seventh.
Wisconsin tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. Macias knocked in Chadwin Stang with a infield grounder and Wisconsin's lead was 4-0.
Toledo worked a 1-2-3 eighth and finished the game with a flourish by striking out the side in order in the top of the ninth.
The win moved Wisconsin's lead in the Western Division to three games over the Snappers with eight games remaining in the first half.
Additionally, Peoria beat Kane County 4-1 on Saturday night. Each half the top two teams in both divisions in the Midwest League qualify for a playoff spot. Wisconsin now has a six game lead on Kane County with eight games to play in the first half. Wisconsin's magic number to clinch their first playoff spot since 2005 was lowered to two with the Kane County loss.
Game two of the series is Sunday afternoon. Chad Thompson (2-1, 6.16) is the scheduled starter for the Timber Rattlers. Beloit has David Hurlbut (2-0, 1.35) as their scheduled starting pitcher. Game time is 1:05pm.
The Timber Rattlers and the Fox Valley Humane Association presents Mutts on the Mound on Sunday. The left field berm seating area will be set aside for pets and their owners. Admission is $5 for humans and pets. Proceeds from pet tickets will be donated to the FVHA.
Before the game fans can play catch on-field courtesy and Timber Rattlers players will be available for an autograph session after the game.
Also, Time Warner Cable customers can receive up to four half-priced reserved bleacher tickets when showing their TWC bill at time of ticket purchase.
Finally, players will be wearing Brewers-themed jerseys on-field during the game as part of Brewers Sunday courtesy of 107.5 The Fan.
If you can't make it out to the game, tune in for the broadcast on AM1280, WNAM or timberrattlers.com starting with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 12:45pm. Sunday's game is also available to subscribers of MiLB.TV.
Greg Hopkins (8th, 0 on in 2nd inning off Tyler Jones, 1 out)
WP: Drew Gagnon (5-1)
LP: Tyler Jones (0-2)
SAVE: Tommy Toledo (2)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.