Wallich Shines Despite Doubleheader Sweep

TOLLCROSS PARK, Glasgow – Durham ended its season on a disappointing note in Scotland, losing 9-8 on a walkoff single to the Glasgow Comets before fighting the rain in a defeat to the Glasgow Galaxy, 15-14. The Palatinates still secured their first winning season ever with a 7-3-5 record and will take the summer off before the autumn season.

Poole PitchingThe first game saw the Comets jump out to an early lead against Andrew Poole, making his first appearance on the mound. The third-year player took a while to get comfortable in the first, loading the bases on free passes, but struck out the cleanup hitter to give himself some fresh air.

Poole induced a popup to shallow centre from the next batter, but it dropped between two fielders and a run scored. A nifty series of throws caught the second baserunner in a pickle, and the righthander would get another punchout to get out of the frame, though not before a second runner scored on a bases-loaded walk.

It was nothing doing for the second straight inning against Santino de Rosa for Durham, who was dominant out of the gates for Glasgow. The Comets struck again in the second versus Poole, who started the inning with a K and got a groundball for out number two after a walk. Continuing a trend, Durham then had trouble getting out of the inning despite two down, as a series of free passes and wild pitches saw two more runners score.

DSC_0072De Rosa rolled on through three with a 1-2-3 frame, and Durham skipper Will Zucker went to the bullpen for the bottom of the frame. The pitching change saw Robin Wallich make his first appearance of the year, and the second-year came out dealing. Flashing cricket-style pitches, Wallich bowled over the bottom of Glasgow’s order in only a few pitches, and Durham came up hacking in the fourth.

Zucker blooped a ball to right to start the inning, advancing to second on a fielding miscue. Poole was hit on the wrist to follow and joined Zucker in a double steal, though De Rosa would strike out Wallich to put one down. Gabriel Fidler stepped up and dropped a surprise bunt that saw Zucker score after faking back to third. The run ignited Durham, as Jack Andrew plated Poole with a RBI-single and then stole second, scoring on a one-base hit from Laurence Hodgkins.

DSC_0221Wallich returned to the hill with the deficit at 4-3, and once more had Glasgow three-up, three-down, with the final out coming on a flashy barehand grab from Hodgkins. The Palatinate order returned to the top in the fifth, and Sam Ross led off with a safety to right centre. He moved over as Harry Winter reached on an error. De Rosa would get the next two batters, but Wallich gave himself the lead with a two-run single to give Durham its first lead of the game.

The Comets would immediately strike back, though it took some bad luck to break through against Wallich. The righthander gave up a free pass to start before a lazy fly ball dropped in between the second baseman and right fielder for a single. An errant pickoff allowed the lead runner to score, and another wild throw from the shortstop gave the Comets the go-ahead run. With the bases empty, Glasgow would manufacture another after a walk, a stolen base, and a groundball, and the score stood 7-5 going into the penultimate sixth inning.

De Rosa cruised through the bottom of Durham’s order and the home side added an insurance run in the sixth. Wallich, clearly tiring in his fourth inning of work, game up back-to-back walks with one out, and David Lee lofted a ball to centre that would score the first runner, though that would be all for the Comets.

Needing three runs to tie, the Black-and-Purple got to work in the seventh. Ross singled to start, and stole second, remaining there on an infield hit from Winter. A fielder’s choice from Zucker put runners on the corners for Poole, who got Durham within two with a single to left. De Rosa induced another grounder to put two down, and the visitors’ chances looked to be over until Fidler stepped up.

The veteran took the first pitch before fouling off another, and with Durham down to its final strike, Fidler looked at ball one before connecting with a pitch and driving it up the middle. Zucker would score and Poole barrelled home, beating the throw by a couple steps.

Fidler quickly swiped second and Andrew joined him on the basepaths after a walk, but De Rosa buckled down and got Hodgkins looking to keep the score knotted at eight.

DSC_0207Zucker entered for only his second appearance of the season in the bottom of the frame and walked the first batter, who swiped second and moved to third a batter later on a wild throw. Mike Greenwood would then cancel Fidler’s heroics with a safety of his own, ripping a ball down the right field line to deliver the Comets a 9-8 victory.

Glasgow managed only three hits against Durham pitching, but worked 15 walks against its mostly rookie hurlers. De Rosa drew three walks, stole four bases, and scored three times, while Lee was 2-for-2 with two RBI and a walk. Matt Gaffney also took three free passes.

De Rosa earned the win with one of the best pitching performances against Durham this year. The righthander went the distance, striking out nine in seven innings, giving up six earned runs on nine hits and two walks. The win improved the Comets’ record to 2-6 on the year. Zucker took the loss, though the star was Wallich, who tossed four frames, allowing only one earned run on a single hit and five walks, whiffing one.

Ross was the only Palatinate with multiple hits, while Fidler led the team with three RBI. Andrew earned his way aboard three teams, drawing a pair of walks to go with a hit and two stolen bases.

The second game of the day also ended with a close score, but Durham had to claw back from a much deeper deficit against Glasgow’s other side, the Galaxy. They did so in miserable conditions, as the cool and blustery day quickly turned to rain, and the two sides fought a downpour before calling it in the fourth.

DSC_0099The Palatinates came out swinging, with Andrew and Hodgkins getting things going with back-to-back doubles with one out. A flyout and error put two on with two out, and Fidler kept his clutch hitting going with a bloop single to right to score Hodgkins. A costly error by the Galaxy shortstop would give Durham a 4-0 lead, and Andrew took the hill to defend it.

Unfortunately, the first-year hurler had trouble finding the zone between the rain and mound conditions, and was yanked with no outs after a series of free passes. With four runs in and the bases loaded, Wallich relieved again, and after a quick walk, got a flyball to Andrew in centre, and looked to work his magic again.

DSC_0182It was not to be, however, as the slippery baseballs were a pitcher’s worst nightmare. A hit batter would plate another, and Wallich had some bad luck on back-to-back seeing-eye singles before two errors in-a-row each allowed runners to score. Wallich got a second popup for out number two, but a third miscue would light up the scoreboard a final time before the inning finally came to an end on a nice strikeout.

All told, 13 runs scored despite only two hits, with Durham committing three errors in the horrific conditions.

The visitors would get one back in the second as the two teams agreed to try and play a few more innings. Ross created his own run, reaching on a fielding error before taking off for second. The third-year from Virginia then swiped third, scoring on an errant throw from the pitcher. That was all for Durham against Jason Stott, and the score was 13-5 going into the second.

Wallich once more was undone by his fielding, as a flyball near the left field line skidded off Fidler’s glove. The next batter, Miguel Mantecon, ripped a double to the corner in left for the RBI, and Wallich then got two easy outs before a RBI-base hit gave Glasgow its 15th run.

With Wallich dealing, the Black-and-Purple had some fun at the plate. Fidler led off with a tapper to the left side, scampering down the line and beating the throw by a half-step. Ever one to test the pitcher, the leftfielder stole second and moved to third on an infield hit from Zucker. With the bottom of the order batting, Fidler attempted to distract Stott on the mound, but instead ran himself into an out as Glasgow’s hurler picked him off.

After the baserunning error, Durham would score a pair on errors before Ross plated a third run with a single. A walk to Andrew put two on, and a strikeout by Stott failed to end the rally. Poole ripped a ball to right to score Ross, and Andrew came around on some poor fielding by the rightfielder. Another infield hit and a walk would load the bases, but Stott extinguished the threat with a big punchout.

DSC_0199Glasgow had another chance to pad its 15-10 lead in the third, but could not break through against an impressive Wallich. The righthander, flashing five pitches, worked seamlessly with first-time catcher Poole, and the Galaxy went down 1-2-3 in the third.

Stott looked to finish the game in the fourth with the deluge continuing, and notched a pair of quick outs before Durham turned the lineup over. Ross once more sparked a rally, singling to right and swiping second. Andrew would drive him home with a hit through the left side and would move over on a safety from Hodgkins.

The comeback was on for Durham, and Poole continued his scorching pace, driving a ball the opposite way to score Andrew. An easy groundball should have spelled the end for the visitors, but Glasgow’s ninth error of the day played Hodgkins and Poole, and it was all up to Fidler. Stott would once more prove Fidler’s nemesis, though, this time getting him swinging at a third strike.

With conditions too poor to play on, the Galaxy took the 15-14 win to improve to 5-2, while Durham finished its season on a seven-game winless streak. The visitors collected 13 hits against Stott, who got the win with a four inning, four earned run, two walk, six K day.

Andrew (0-2) took the loss, while Wallich pitched better than his line would indicate as he went three innings, surrendering eight runs, three earned, on four hits and a walk, whiffing a pair.

Poole was the hitting star after a 3-for-4 day with two RBI. He finished 7-for-11 on the three-game road swing, putting his average up to .520 on the season, second on the team. Ross, Andrew, Hodgkins, and Fidler all had a hitting brace, with the first two scoring three times. Fidler and Ross each stole three bags. Talia Caplan earned her first-ever RBI, while Jenny Laurence reached twice on errors.

Durham will break for summer after a very successful first season that saw the team finish as the No. 4 university team at the Spring National University Championship and lose only once to a uni side. The club played matches in Belfast, Scotland, London, and elsewhere, and will look to expand its schedule for the 2016-17 season.

Images copyright Gabriel Fidler and Talia Caplan.

About Gabriel Fidler

Extra Innings UK covers baseball around the world, focussing on the sport at the national team level, with features on prominent players, scouting reports, and occasional breaking news. We are fully credentialled by MLB and have covered the World Baseball Classic, continental championships, and the U.S. minor leagues.
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