By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
In a high-scoring affair, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (44-21, 20-9) outlasted the struggling Kenosha Kingfish (22-44, 6-24) by a final score of 10-8 to collect their fifth consecutive win. In the face of the first shaky bullpen performance in recent memory, the Rafters rode the strength of their lineup to complete a series sweep of the Kingfish.
The Rafters sought to offer starting pitcher Cal Giese (St. Cloud State) an early lead on Sunday, and succeeded by posting a trio of runs in the bottom of the first inning. With a pair of runners on base, catcher Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago) lofted his first home run of the season deep down the left field line to open the scoring and stake the Rafters to an early 3-0 lead.
Following a scoreless second inning from Giese, the Rafter lineup rallied to score an additional pair of runs. Calabrese struck for a second time with an RBI single up the middle and Patrick Cromwell (Clemson) roped a triple over the head of center fielder Rob Henry to widen the Rafter lead to 5-0 after the second inning. Giese proceeded to cruise through the third and fourth frames before running into a wall in the top of the fifth. An RBI fielder’s choice and a pair of run-scoring singles cut the Rafters’ advantage to 5-3 and ended Giese’s night. In his five innings of work, the left-hander was responsible for three runs (all earned) on six hits and two walks, notching five strikeouts.
In the bottom half of the fifth inning, the Rafters responded with another surge of three runs, scoring on Calabrese’s second RBI single, a run-scoring double from Brett Thompson (Hope International), and a wild pitch. With the lead resting at 8-3, the Rafters handed the game to their bullpen and slowly watched the margin diminish to nothing, as the clubs entered the bottom of the eighth inning locked in an 8-8 tie.
Following a leadoff walk from Max Widmar (Iowa Central), Aldo Koutsoyanopulos (Stanislaus State) dropped down a sacrifice bunt that pitcher Andrew Burnick threw into center field attempting to throw out the man at second base. With runners on first and second and no outs, Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills) tore a 3-2 pitch through the left side of the infield to drive home the go-ahead run and picked up a late-game, clutch base-hit for the second time in three games. After a pitching change, a wild pitch would score Koutsoyanopulos, pushing the score to it’s final margin of 10-8. Nick Belzer (Des Moines Area CC) fired a scoreless ninth inning to close out the victory and picked up his first win of the season in the process.
The two teams combined to use a total of nine pitchers and 26 position players, as the Rafters held on to win. Rob Calabrese finished the night three-for-four with a home run and a season-high five runs batted in. With the win, the Rafters now move into first place by themselves in the entire Northwoods League standings, as they look to clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs regardless of opponent.
The Rafters will return to action on Monday night, as they welcome the Wisconsin Woodchucks to town for the first of a two-game series. First pitch is slated for 7:05 PM with gates opening at 6:05 PM.
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