By Cooper Perkins
Kalamazoo, Mich. – Entering the evening with a two-game lead in the South Division standings, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (23-10) utilized a late rally to top the Kalamazoo Growlers (18-15) and widen their division lead to three games. After falling behind in the sixth inning, the Rafters rallied to push the game into extras before pulling ahead to win 6-3 in the tenth frame.
Taking the ball for the Rafters was left-hander Jake Repavich (Grand Canyon), who made his third start of the season and began the game by holding the Growlers hitless for the first 4 1/3 innings of the evening. Despite a three-run sixth inning that was fueled by a pair of errors, Repavich turned in a quality start, as he completed six innings and allowed just three unearned runs. The southpaw scattered five hits and two walks without recording a strikeout in his no-decision.
The Rafters opened the scoring in the top of the second inning after Ben Fisher (Eastern Kentucky) catalyzed a rally with a one-out double to the left field wall. A groundout to the right side of the infield would allow Fisher to advance to third, setting the table for the Rafters to strike first. On a pop fly into no-man’s land behind third base, Connor Kopach and Brandon Gomez converged but were unable to corral the ball, resulting in an RBI single for Doak Dozier (Virginia) and a 1-0 Rafter lead.
After a multitude of quiet innings, the Growlers finally struck in the bottom of the sixth inning against Repavich, following a two-base error that put a runner on second base with no outs. An additional error and a pair of run-scoring singles combined to plate three runs for the Growlers in the inning and offer them a 3-1 lead through six innings.
In the seventh inning, the Rafters used back-to-back walks and a bunt single from Demetrius Sims (Bethune-Cookman) to load the bases with no outs. A double play ball off the bat of Jacson McGowan (Purdue) allowed a run to score, cutting the Rafters’ deficit to 3-2. Finally in the ninth inning, the Rafters utilized a leadoff single from Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills), a stolen base, and a throwing error to put the tying run on third base. Pitching to Sims, Austin Rodesky sent his 2-2 pitch to the backstop and allowed Polizzi to come home and tie the game.
In the tenth inning, the Rafters pieced together a three-run rally to take the lead courtesy of a two-run double from Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville) and a Demetrius Sims run-scoring single. Garrett Schilling (Xavier) then came on in the last of the tenth to close the door and proceeded to secure his league-best tenth save with a perfect inning.
Coupling the win with Madison’s loss, the Rafters now enjoy a three-game lead in the South Division with three only games to play. In order for the Rafters to officially clinch the South Division first-half title, they need to either win one of their final three games or watch Madison lose one of their final three games. In order to avoid a tie in the event that the Rafters were to lose their final three games and the Mallards were to win their final three games, a Battle Creek loss on Sunday would also clinch the division for Wisconsin Rapids.
First pitch at Homer Stryker Field is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. local time (2:05 p.m. CT) with coverage beginning 15 minutes prior to first pitch on WFHR 1320 AM.
For more information please visit raftersbaseball.com