By Cooper Perkins
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – Winners of Tuesday’s series opener, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (13-8) overcame a five-run deficit on Wednesday and plated the final seven runs of the game to top the visiting Lakeshore Chinooks (9-15) by a score of 9-7.
After a quiet first inning, the evening’s scoring opened in the top of the second, as a scuffling Chinook lineup found its footing against Rafter starter Gareth Stroh (Coffeyville CC). Before recording an out in the frame, Stroh was tagged for back-to-back singles by Hayden Senger and Darius Sewell before issuing a four-pitch walk to Matt Johnson and loading the bases with no outs. The flood gates would open in the subsequent at-bats, as a run-scoring fielder’s choice from Owen Miller plated the first run of the game and a wild throw from Rafter third baseman Jon Meola (Virginia) allowed an additional tally to come across.
With only one out and runners on second and third, Joe Duncan fashioned a single to score the third run of the inning before Zac Taylor worked a walk to load the bases. Tim Dalporto, who doubled off the center field fence the previous night, proceeded to stroke a two-run double and extend the Lakeshore lead to 5-0 after the top of the second. Stroh’s evening ended after the second inning, with the left-hander having allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks. For the first time this summer, Stroh did not strike out an opposing batter.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Rafters stacked singles from Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago), Meola, and Demetrius Sims (Bethune-Cookman) to load the bases with two outs. Trailing 5-0, the Rafters pushed across a pair of runs on consecutive walks with the bases loaded, first by Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills) then by Jake Lumley (Canisius).
The Chinooks, however, responded to the Rafters’ push with a solo home run from Matt Johnson with one out in the top of the third and a run-scoring groundout from Dalporto with one out in the top of the fourth. Entering the bottom of the fourth inning, the Rafters trailed 7-2, but would stiffen from that point forward.
After a pinch-hit, run-scoring infield single from Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville) that was aided by a throwing error from pitcher Austin Havekost, the Rafters began a rally that would include seven unanswered runs scattered across the game’s final five innings.
A leadoff walk by Joey Morgan (Washington) and a one-out single from Calabrese set the stage for the Rafters in the bottom of the fifth and offered them an opportunity to further cut into Lakeshore’s 7-3 lead. With one out, Doak Dozier (Virginia) dropped down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third, ushering designated hitter Jacson McGowan (Purdue) to the plate with a pair of runners in scoring position and two outs. McGowan proceeded to label Havekost’s 1-0 pitch for the right-center field gap and drove in both runners on a two-run double, pulling the Rafters to within 7-5 after five innings.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Lumley reached base on fly-ball single to left field. Two batters later, Logan Mattix (Georgia College) lifted Havekost’s 0-2 pitch towards the right field corner, hugging it just inside the foul line for a two-out double. With Lumley leading from third base, Havekost mailed his 1-2 offering to the backstop and allowed Lumley to score on the wild pitch. The run pulled the Rafters to within 7-6 and primed the contest for a wild finish.
Following a scoreless seventh inning and a quiet top of the eighth from the Chinooks, the Rafters entered the bottom of the eighth trailing 7-6 and looking to tie the ballgame. Immediately after Sims hit back to the box, Woodcock worked the count to 3-1 before connecting on the ensuing delivery from Chris Choles and clearing the right field fence for a game-tying solo home run. Later in the inning, the go-ahead run rested on base thanks to a pair of two-out singles from Morgan and Mattix. Consecutive throwing errors from Lakeshore’s middle infield allowed the Rafters to score both runners and take their first lead of the game, carrying a 9-7 advantage into the top of the ninth inning.
With Garrett Schilling (Xavier) warming in the bullpen, the Rafters tabbed Jeff Fasching (Minnesota) to close the game, but turned to Schilling after consecutive singles allowed the tying runs to reach base for Lakeshore. Seeking to strand the pair of inherited runners, Schilling entered the ballgame with an inauspicious beginning, planting a fastball on the shoulder of Owen Miller and loading the bases with no outs. With the Witter Field crowd trying to will the Rafters to a fourth victory in five games, Schilling struck out Royce Ando swinging and induced a double play from Joe Duncan to close out the game. The save was Schilling’s sixth of the campaign, moving him into a tie for the most in the Northwoods League.
The Rafters take to the road for their next six games, as they will be in action Thursday night in Rockford for a 6:35 p.m. first pitch against the Rivets.