By Cooper Perkins Special to the City Times
In a marathon that spanned 14 innings and lasted north of five hours, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (26-12) outlasted the Kenosha Kingfish (16-22) by a final tally of 8-7. The victory marked the Rafters’ fourth all-time victory over the Kingfish and extended the club’s franchise-record home winning streak to nine games, the longest such streak in the Northwoods League this summer.
The Rafters began the bottom of the first inning with a sequence that included a hit batter, a walk, and a rare instance of catcher’s interference to load the bases with no outs. Ben Fisher (Eastern Kentucky), the squad’s leader in runs batted in, proceeded to produce a run-scoring fielder’s choice to put the Rafters on the scoreboard. In the process of trying to turn a double play, Kingfish shortstop Blake Reese sailed a throw to first that plated a second run and offered the Rafters a 2-0 lead after the first inning.
On the mound for the Rafters, Chris Cooper (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) fired two scoreless innings at the top of the ballgame to stretch his franchise-record streak to 24 1/3 innings. The third inning, however, proved to be the stopping point for Cooper’s run of success, as the Kingfish used a single and a double to put runners on second and third with no outs in the inning. A groundout and a sacrifice fly would plate two runs for the Kingfish and tie the game 2-2. In five innings of work, Cooper did not factor into the decision, scattering three hits and two walks, while allowing two runs (both earned) and striking out three.
Following Kenosha’s breakthrough in the top of the third, the Rafters countered with an additional run of their own on a sacrifice fly to left field by Aldo Koutsoyandopulos (Stanislaus State) to take a 3-2 lead. In the fourth inning, the Rafters added to their total on a run-scoring single from Jake Lumley (Canisius) to plate Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville). The single extended Lumley’s on-base streak to 22 games, which leaves him with the longest active streak in the Northwoods League. The Rafters would conclude their three-inning offensive surge with a two-run fifth thanks to an RBI double from Koutsoyandopulos and a run-scoring wild pitch. Through five innings, the Rafters led the Kingfish 6-2.
The four-run Rafter advantage would prove to be short-lived, however, as the Kingfish exploded against Jeff Fasching (Minnesota) to plate four runs in the top of the seventh inning and tie the game. With four runs charged to Fasching in his 1 1/3 innings of work, Blair Lakso (Buffalo) came on to finish the frame and stop the bleeding. At the night’s end, the Rafter bullpen combined to fire nine full innings, allowing five runs, and striking out 10 collectively without a walk.
Looking to reclaim the lead, the Rafters found their answer in the form of a Ben Fisher double just inside the first base bag and down the right field line. Dustin Woodcock scored the go-ahead run and offered the Rafters a 7-6 lead entering the ninth inning. For the first time this summer, Garrett Schilling (Xavier) was unable to close the door and was saddled with a blown save when Blake Reese doubled home the tying run. The run knotted the score at seven and sent the game into extra innings—the fourth extra-inning game of the season for the Rafters.
Over the ensuing four innings, the Rafters would rally on numerous occasions, but struggled to push across the deciding run until the bottom of the 14th inning. With the winning run on third base, Jacson McGowan (Purdue) chopped a ground ball to Blake Reese at short, who bobbled the ball and allowed the winning run to score. Despite leaving 22 runners on base, the 8-7 victory pushed the Rafters to 22-1 in games that they score four runs or more and improved their extra-inning record to 3-0. Cameron Busby (Georgia College) earned his fifth win in relief and Rob Henry took the loss for the Kingfish.
The Rafters will return to action on Friday in Green Bay, as they take on the Bullfrogs at 7:05 PM for the first of a two-game series.For more information please visit raftersbaseball.com