In his second year with the Washington Wild Things, Oakmont resident Gus Benusa is dealing with several new concepts.
For one thing, the Wild Things are posting a winning record. Through 33 games, Washington has a 17-16 record despite a five-game losing streak that was snapped with a 5-2 victory against the River City Rascals last Friday night before a Fireworks Night crowd of 2,218 at Consol Energy Park in North Franklin, Washington County.
"It feels great," Benusa said moments after the game ended. "The team is feeling great about this win, and we hope to carry it over."
The Wild Things split the remaining two games with the Rascals with a 1-0 victory on Saturday followed by a 5-4 loss Sunday.
Benusa joined the team last year after the Pioneer League All-Star break after playing for three years in the San Francisco Giants' organization, spending two full seasons with the Giants' Rookie League team in the Arizona League. Five games into his third season with the Rookie League team, Benusa was released, and he joined the Wild Things where he hit .253 with one home run and 13 RBIs.
Things are looking up for him this season as he was hitting .258 (24 for 93) with two home runs, 12 RBIs and eight stolen bases following Tuesday's 7-5 loss on the road against the Florence (Ky.) Freedom.
The second thing that was new for Benusa this season was a week-long sojourn to the disabled list, a process that he'd never experienced before and hopes he doesn't visit again.
"That was the day we played a 19-inning ball game [a 4-3 loss at Windy City Thunderbolts on June 1], and then we had another game that went seven innings after that game [a 5-3 victory against the Thunderbolts], and it was probably 50 degrees," he said of his enforced visit to the sidelines.
"I felt my [quadricep] pull when I was going after a ball in the outfield, and then we had to ride back [to Washington] 10 hours on the bus. My leg tightened up pretty good after that, and I couldn't run the next day.
"I took a day off, but it didn't get any better. So, the team put me on the seven-day disabled list, and after seven days it felt great."
Since he returned from the disabled list, Benusa, 22, has four hits, including a two-run double Tuesday night in the loss at Florence.
"You have to get back into a groove and see live pitches again," he said about his return to the lineup. "You do lose your timing. But my swing is feeling good, I just need to get the timing back to where I was when I was hitting really well.
"They put me on the DL for seven days because they wanted me to be at 100 percent when I came back, and that I could play every day."
Benusa said he could do just about everything his teammates could do while he was on the disabled list undergoing treatment.
"I could do everything [everyone else was doing] due to the nature of the injury," he said. "I could still take [batting practice]. I could shag fly balls, but I couldn't run."
Once the game began, Benusa was able to dress in uniform, sit on the bench, and cheer the team on.
He would have rather been playing.
"[Being on the disabled list] is not a lot of fun because the fun part of this game is playing baseball," he said.
Benusa experienced the fun part of the game in Friday's win when he was part of one of the two unusual plays that took place in the ninth inning of the Wild Things' three-run victory against the Rascals.
The second and third outs of the inning were the result of two runners being retired at third base after teammates had singled to advance the runners.
In both cases, the runners easily reached second base, but were retired when they tried to advance to third.
Benusa's involvement took place on the final play of the game when the Rascals' Curran Redal hit a bloop single that dropped in front of Benusa in right field. Will Block raced from first base to second, and then tested Benusa's arm by sprinting toward third.
"I saw [Block] going hard, and I knew he was going to third," Benusa said. "I didn't press the ball too hard to try to catch it in the air. I knew I could get him at third, and I put a good throw on it. It took a nice hop, and I got it to [Wild Things' third baseman Jovan] Rosa, and we got him."
On the previous play, Block singled, only to see teammate Johnny Morales thrown out trying to advance to third. Morales attempted the risky maneuver when he saw that third base was momentarily uncovered, but Rosa raced to the bag to take the throw from first baseman Stewart Ijames for the easy out.
Benusa said his assist on the final out of the game was a first in his career as was two runners being retired at third base in the same inning. Benusa wants good things to continue for a team he highly regards.
"This is one of the best teams I've played on, chemistry-wise and talent-wise," he said. "We haven't played a team this year that we've said 'We can't beat these guys.' We just need to get back to the way we played and pitched before [when the team won nine of 10 games in mid- to late May]."
First Published June 27, 2013 4:00 AM