By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
Rafters amass 19 hits in win over Rivets
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (33-17, 9-5) responded to a difficult loss on Thursday night by routing the Rockford Rivets (27-23, 10-4) by a tally of 15-3 on Friday night. Thanks to a series of explosive offensive innings and a strong pitching performance, the Rafters snapped Rockford’s six-game winning streak and salvaged a series split.
In the wake of a quiet first inning on both sides, the Rafters ripped the evening’s scoring open in the bottom of the second by sending 10 men to the plate and scoring five runs. With runners on first and second after a pair of hit batsmen, Jon Meola (Virginia) roped a run-scoring single into center field to offer the Rafters an early advantage. After Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills) worked a walk, Jake Lumley (Canisius) took his turn at the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to widen the Rafter margin. On a 1-0 pitch, Lumley squared an offering from Tyler Thornton and drove it over the center field wall for his fourth home run of the season, giving the Rafters their first grand slam of the summer.
The Rafters would proceed to plate ten more runs before the game’s end including a trio in the fourth inning on a Patrick Cromwell (Clemson) run-scoring double, an RBI fielder’s choice from Logan Mattix (Georgia College), and a Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville) RBI single. Two innings later, five more runs would cross the plate, as the Rafters batted around for the second time in the ballgame and pounded five hits off relievers Nick Drahozal and Nick Kamrada. Individual runs would score in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings courtesy of a Joe Wainhouse (Washington) solo home run and a Logan Mattix bases-loaded walk.
Owning a formidable lead, left-handed starter Gareth Stroh (Coffeyville CC) proceeded to settle into form, illustrating a degree of dominance resembling his early-season success. Through his first five innings, Stroh was nothing short of masterful in route to matching his season-high total of eight strikeouts. After surrendering a bases-loaded double with two outs in the top of the sixth, Stroh exited the ballgame having surrendered two runs (both earned) on five hits and two walks. Upon Stroh’s departure from the action, Nick Belzer (Des Moines Area CC) picked up the pieces by striking out five consecutive hitters and earning a total of six punch outs in 2 2/3 perfect innings. Reggie Johnson (Alcorn State) finished the contest for the Rafters by allowing a run on two hits, while striking out one in the top of the ninth inning.
Stroh received the victory, moving his record to 3-2 on the season. Additionally, 11 different players recorded hits for the Rafters, including four hits by Meola and three by Cromwell.
The Rafters will return to action on Saturday evening, as they travel north of the border to meet the Thunder Bay Border Cats for a 5:05 PM CT first pitch at Port Arthur Stadium.
For more information please visit raftersbaseball.com.