By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
In the wake of their first shutout loss of the season earlier in the day, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (39-20, 15-8) salvaged a series split with Eau Claire Express (37-23, 13-11) on Monday, winning the night cap 11-8. After early exits from each starting pitcher, the Rafters received an outstanding bullpen effort and pieced together 10 consecutive runs to win the game.
After a pair of RBI in Monday’s first game, Rudy Rott began the game’s scoring with a run-scoring groundout to offer the Express an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Several plays later, an error would allow an additional run to score and pushed Eau Claire’s lead to 2-0 through one and a half innings. In the bottom of the second, however, the Rafters responded to cut their deficit in half with an RBI single from Logan Mattix (Georgia College), his first of three hits in the game. In the top of the third, the Express then exploded for four runs and seized a 6-1 lead.
The night would end early for Rafter starting pitcher Cal Giese (St. Cloud State), who was bounced after 2 2/3 innings, having allowed six runs (five earned) on five hits and two walks, striking out five. Upon Giese’s exit, the Rafters proceeded to explode at the plate for a five-run bottom of the fourth inning, tying the game at 6-6 entering the fifth frame. In the rally, Mattix plated his second RBI of the night on a groundout and Joey Morgan (Washington) drove in a pair with a bases-loaded double off the right-center field wall. Finally, after Express starter Reagan MacDonald was lifted, Demetrius Sims (Bethune-Cookman) lined a double down the right field line to score two more runs and tie the game.
After an outstanding stretch of 4 1/3 innings from eventual winning pitcher John Jaeger (Sterling College), the Rafters rallied to take their first lead of the game. With runners on first and second and two outs, Max Widmar (Iowa Centra) lined a single to center field, driving in the go-ahead run. With a 7-6 lead entering the eighth inning, the Rafters handed the ball to the back end of their bullpen hoping to secure a series split.
Despite a no-out rally in the top of the eighth inning, Blair Lakso (Buffalo) struck out a pair and stranded two runners on base to offer the Rafters a chance to add insurance. In the bottom of the inning, the Rafters tacked on four additional runs on a run-scoring single from Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago) and a three-run home run from Patrick Cromwell (Clemson) to run the score to 11-6. The home run was Cromwell’s first of the season and his third hit of the ballgame. Sporting a five-run lead, Garrett Schilling (Xavier) came on to finish the ballgame and, after a two-run home run from league-leader Dalton Varsho, the Rafters held on to win by a final count of 11-8. By earning the victory, Jaeger clinched his seventh of the season, tying the Rafters franchise record.
The Rafters will return to action on Tuesday as they travel to Mequon for the opener of a two-game series with the Lakeshore Chinooks and the first of a four-game road swing. First pitch is slated for 6:35 PM.
For more information please visit raftersbaseball.com.