By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
In their first game following the All-Star break, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (32-17, 8-5) returned home to host the Rockford Rivets (27-22, 10-3). A late insurance run proved to be the difference on Thursday night, as a Rafter rally in the ninth inning was not enough to overcome a three-run deficit. Despite scoring twice in the final frame, the Rafters fell by a final score of 6-5.
After three innings of scoreless work by Eric Ligda (Millersville), the Rivets scored two runs in the fourth to take the lead. Ryan Long tripled deep to left field to score the first run and then came across a sequence later on a run-scoring error. The Rivets then plated a trio of runs in the top of the fifth inning to push their margin to 5-0 courtesy of a sacrifice fly from Cade Bunnell and a two-run home run by Hunter Hargrove.
Trailing 5-0, the Rafters finally found their footing at the plate in the bottom of the fifth inning against starter Trevor Kaminski, who had not allowed a hit through four frames. All-Star Logan Mattix (Georgia College) drew a bases-loaded walk to chip into the Rockford lead and broungh home the Rafters’ first run of the night. Jake Lumley (Canisius) then followed with a run-scoring fielder’s choice to pull the Rafters within 5-2. The Rafters second run of the inning forced Rivet starter Trevor Kiminski from the game after 4 2/3 innings. Neither of the runs scored against Kiminski were earned. The right-hander walked four hitters, struck out a season-high seven batters, and allowed just one hit in a no-decision.
After cutting the Rivets’ lead to three runs entering the seventh inning, Rafter starter Eric Ligda (Millersville) would exit the ballgame as well. Ligda tossed six innings, while allowing five runs (two earned) and seven hits. He also struck out four batters, while walking just two and in route to absorbing his third loss of the season.
In the eighth inning, a Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville) RBI double nudged the Rafters even closer to the Rivets, running the score to 5-3. Immediately after a disputed play at third base that resulted in a Jordan Hovey triple in the top of the ninth inning, Michael Smith doubled home the Rivets’ final tally, an insurance run to widen the score to 6-3. The Rafters manufactured a rally in the last of the ninth, forcing two runs across the plate on a litany errors to pull them within a single run. Unfortunately for the Rafters, they would fall short in the final inning and dropped the game to Rockford by a final score of 6-5, snapping the Rafters’ four-game winning streak.
In the loss, Jake Lumley, who went 0-for-5, watched his on-base streak come to an end at 32 games. At the streak’s conclusion, it marked the second-longest such streak in Rafter history behind only Jackson Slaid’s 39-game on-base streak in 2013.
The Rafters will look to even the series on Friday night at Witter Field with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM and gates opening at 6:05 PM. The game will be followed by a fireworks show.
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