By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
With runs in six consecutive innings and a strong pitching performance, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (51-23, 2-0) bolted past the Battle Creek Bombers (40-34, 1-1) to clinch the South Division Pennant. With a 7-3 victory, the Rafters earned the right to meet the Eau Claire Express in the Northwoods League Summer Collegiate World Series beginning on Thursday night.
After falling behind early on a two-run home run from Dean Miller in the first inning, the Rafters stiffened to outscore the Bombers 7-1 over the final eight innings of the ballgame. The Rafters began their charge in the bottom of the second inning thanks to a leadoff walk from Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills) and a single from Scott Kapers (Valparaiso) to put runners on the corners with two outs. A run-scoring wild pitch and an RBI single from Richie Palacios (Towson) tied the game at the end of the second and offered starter Eric Ligda (Millersville) a clean slate entering the third frame.
Following a scoreless top of the third inning, the Rafters surged in front of Battle Creek with a one-out rally that included a double by Joe Wainhouse (Washington) that caromed off the left field wall and a throwing error by third baseman Cody Young that allowed Wainhouse to score from second base. With their first lead of the ballgame, the Rafters sent Ligda back to the mound for the fourth inning.
Despite a run-scoring fielder’s choice in the fourth inning that brought the game even, Ligda largely settled down and worked into a rhythm that saw him finish six innings, allowing just three runs (all earned) on five hits and three walks, striking out six. The quality start earned Ligda the eventual victory, following a methodical offensive performance that included runs in six consecutive innings.
With the game tied at three entering the bottom of the fourth inning, Richie Palacios roped a two-out double to place the go-ahead run in scoring position. The ensuing batter, Jake Lumley (Canisius) lined a single to center field, allowing Palacios to score easily. Then in the fifth inning, consecutive singles by Rob Calabrese (Ilinois-Chicago) and Joe Wainhouse set the stage for Ben Fisher’s run-scoring fielder’s choice to push the score to 5-3.
In the sixth inning, Lumley pulled through for his second RBI single of the ballgame, scoring Scott Kapers and offering the Rafters a 6-3 advantage. Finally in the bottom of the seventh inning, Kapers offered a run-scoring single of his own to plate Will Iloncaie (UW-Stevens Point) and push the game to it’s final margin of 7-3.
At the back end of the Rafters’ bullpen, Blair Lakso (Buffalo) worked two dominant innings in which he allowed just one base hit, issued a walk, and struck out four Bombers. Garrett Schilling (Xavier) pitched the game’s final inning, tossing a perfect ninth that included a pair of strikeouts. With the win, the Rafters earned a spot in the Summer Collegiate World Series against the North Division Champion Eau Claire Express.
The Rafters are slated to host the opening game of the best-of-three series on Thursday night at 7:05 PM. Tickets will be available for sale beginning at 9 AM on Wednesday morning at the Witter Field ticket office.
For more information please visit raftersbaseball.com