By Cooper Perkins
Tuesday night proved to be a satisfying return home for the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (12-8), downing the Lakeshore Chinooks (9-14) in a hard-fought 2-1 game. On the back of dominant pitching and a late, tie-breaking sacrifice fly from Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago), the Rafters snapped their five-game losing streaking against Lakeshore.
The Rafters jumped in front of their visitors in the bottom of the fourth inning on a bases-loaded fielders choice off the bat of Luke Pettersen (Minnesota). The bouncer to second base allowed a run to come home and and offered the Rafters an early 1-0 advantage.
Looking to rebound after a frustrating start one week ago, right-hander Jay Peters (UW-Milwaukee) toed the rubber for the Rafters on Tuesday night and dazzled through his five innings on the bump. Peters retired the first nine hitters consecutively before running into a spot of trouble in the top of the fourth inning. After Zac Taylor and Kurtis Bleming were able to reach base to begin the inning, Peters succeeded in retiring Kurtis Brown before finally surrendering his first hit of the game. With the count 1-0, Tim Dalporto connected on a Peters pitch, driving it all the way to the center field fence, allowing Taylor to score from second. The run would prove to be the only whisper offered by the Lakeshore lineup, as they would not score again.
Despite battling a sever foot laceration sustained from non-baseball activities, right-hander John Jaeger took the place of Jay Peters in the top of the sixth inning and baffled the Chinook lineup. For three innings, Jaeger kept Lakeshore off the scoreboard and finished with two strikeouts without a walk.
Finally in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Rafters manufactured an opportunity to break the tied ballgame and plate the go-ahead run following a lead-off walk from Ben Fisher (Eastern Kentucky) and a Joey Morgan (Washington) single. With the bases loaded and one out, Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago) lofted a fly ball to center field just deep enough to allow Fisher to race home from third and score the tie-breaking run on a close play, running the score to 2-1.
With the Rafters holding a 2-1 lead and looking to clinch their first win over the Chinooks in the last six meetings, right-hander Garrett Schilling (Xavier) took the ball for the Rafters in the top of the ninth and worked around an error to seal the victory. The final two outs would be recorded on a “strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out” double play, with Schilling punching out Matt Johnson and Calabrese gunning down Tim Dalporto at second base.
The victory lifted the Rafters to 12-8 overall and moved them to within 1/2 of a game of the first-place Madison Mallards. They will return to action Wednesday night at Witter Field with a 7:05 p.m. first pitch against the Chinooks. Gates will open at 6:05 p.m.
For more information, please visit raftersbaseball,com