The Tri-City Dust Devils have a stable of good arms in the bullpen, but they got to see how good of a closer catcher Robbie Perkins is Tuesday night at Gesa Stadium.
Perkins, a 20-year-old second-year catcher out of Canberra, Australia, threw to second base to gun down Hillsboro Hops base runner Taylor Ratliff, the potential tying run. That ended the game and gave Tri-City a 4-3 Northwest League victory over the Hops.
“That’s unreal. I’ve never had a game end like that,” said the Dust Devils’ actual closer, Josh Michalec, who earned his eighth save of the season with two scoreless innings. “It’s awesome knowing Perk is behind the plate and can throw out a guy is big time. If they run, hopefully it’s an out.”
Perkins would much rather give credit to his pitchers, but he enjoyed the opportunity to shine with the game on the line.
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“Catchers usually don’t have a chance to do something like that,” said Perkins, who wasn’t surprised Ratliff tried to test his arm in such a crucial situation. “They want to try to get that run in scoring position. And he’s a guy who likes to run, so I’m not surprised.”
Tri-City (16-16 second half) stayed locked in a first-place tie with Vancouver (16-16), who beat Eugene 3-1 on the road.
The Canadians hold the tiebreaker over the Dust Devils, so Tri-City must win the division outright to reach the NWL playoffs.
“Destiny is still in our hands. We control how far we’re going to go in this thing,” Dust Devils manager Drew Saylor said. “If we win, it puts pressure on (Vancouver). That’s all we’ve got to do is win baseball games.”
A terrific start by Ryan Castellani, the Colorado Rockies’ second-round draft pick out of Brophy Prep in Phoenix, made things a lot easier for the Dust Devils to take early control.
Castellani, an 18-year-old right-hander, didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. He gave up just two hits and one run over five frames for his first professional win.
“Castellani did a great job. He attacked the strike zone, kept them off balance and just went after them,” Saylor said. “That’s just how you play the game.”
John Sheehan followed with two strong innings of relief. His only mistake was giving up a two-run home run to Justin Gonzalez in the seventh inning that cut Tri-City’s lead to 4-3.
But that’s as close as Hillsboro got.
Michalec, a former Baylor star and the career saves leader for the Big 12 Conference, pitched out of trouble in the eighth to hold the lead. He allowed a leadoff single to Pedro Ruiz and threw two wild pitches that allowed Ruiz to advance to third.
But he got Steve Nyisztor to pop out to center to end the threat.
The two wild pitches pushed Tri-City’s season total to 105, tying the NWL team record for most wild pitches thrown in a season. Bellingham also threw 105 in 1998.
Denzel Richardson put Tri-City on the board in the second inning, hitting his first home run of the season for a 1-0 lead. The Dust Devils got three runs in the third inning on back-to-back doubles by Marcos Derkes and Drew Weeks, and then back-to-back singles by Shane Hoelscher and Sean Dwyer.
“This had a little more emphasis. The game doesn’t change, but the fact we’re fighting with Vancouver to get into the playoffs carries a lot of weight,” Michalec said. “I want to make the playoffs with all my heart, and I know every one of my teammates do, too.”