By Cooper Perkins
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (32-16, 8-4) used an explosion from their lineup to out-slug the Wisconsin Woodchucks (19-28, 6-6) by a final score of 14-7 on Sunday evening at Athletic Park. Thanks to a trio of big innings, the Rafter lineup offered their pitching staff ample run support, a luxury that has evaded the club lately.
For the second consecutive night, the Rafters plated a cluster of runs in the early innings and enjoyed an early lead against the ‘Chucks. After perfect first innings from both starting pitchers, the Rafters opened the game’s scoring with a four-run rally in the bottom of the second inning thanks to timely hitting and a pair of Woodchuck errors. With runners on first and third with only one out, Aldo Koutsoyanopulos (Stanislaus State) reached on an error, driving in the first run of the game. Just moments later, a double steal attempt from Doak Dozier (Virginia) and Koutsoyanopulos would result in a second run when George Janca proved unable to handle Jonathan Foster’s throw from home. Run-scoring singles from Scott Kapers (Valparaiso) and Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills) would combine to run the Rafters’ lead to 4-0.
In the bottom of the second inning, starting pitcher Nick Belzer (Des Moines Area) was greeted by the Woodchucks with back-to-back hits to begin the frame. The second of the two hits, a double by Janca, would set the table for Chad Fleischman to bat with none out and runners on second and third. Fleischman would drive the first pitch he saw from Belzer over the wall for his fourth home run of the season, his third against the Rafters. The blast cut the Rafter advantage to 4-3.
The Rafters would produce a response in the top of the third inning in the form of a five-run rally to push the score to 9-3. A run-scoring double by Dozier followed by an RBI single from Koutsoyanopulos accompanied by a throwing error accounted for the first three runs of the inning. A wild pitch several batters later would plate Koutsoyanopulos and a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Demetrius Sims (Bethune-Cookman) concluded the rally.
Wisconsin would quietly narrow the score to 9-6 after scoring three consecutive runs between the fifth and sixth innings. Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville) then pushed the Rafters’ margin back to four runs in the top of the sixth with an RBI single, only to watch the ‘Chucks get a run back in the bottom of the inning to run the score to 10-7.
After the Rafters received a pair of scoreless innings from eventual winning pitcher Blair Lakso (Buffalo), the lineup burst open one final time for four runs in the top of the ninth inning to push the score to it’s final margin of 14-7. A two-run single from Scott Kapers, who went three-for-four with four runs batted in, followed by a bases loaded walk by Brandon Polizzi and a sacrifice fly by Logan Mattix (Georgia College) accounted for the inning’s tallies. In the flurry, Jake Lumley (Canisius) came off the bench to collect a bunt single and extended his on-base streak to 32 games. Finally, Garrett Schilling (Xavier) threw a perfect ninth inning to secure the win and lifted the Rafters to their fourth consecutive win.
The Rafters will be on a break from action until Thursday when the Rockford Rivets travel to Witter Field for the first game after the All-Star festivities.
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