By Mick Tidrow
Special to the City Times
The Rafters Team Report is a weekly update of your 2017 Wisconsin Rapids Rafters players in their spring seasons. Stay tuned each week for news and stats on players.
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Walk-offs were the storyline of last week for soon-to-be Rafters and their teams with the spring regular season coming to a close and postseason play in full motion.
In its lone game of the week, Valparaiso squeaked out a 5-4 victory against Milwaukee. With the win, it solidified a spot for the Crusaders in the Horizon League Tournament. In the walk-off win, Scott Kapers did everything he could to keep his team in it. The sophomore finished with a team-high three hits, including a triple, run scored and a run batted in. Kapers has been an instrumental part of the offense and defense all season long and brings his regular season batting average up to .269 after this past week. The Crusaders put their season on the line in Chicago on May 24th against Oakland in tournament play.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi finished their season on a high note, sweeping Abilene Christian in a three game set last week. Shining on the diamond, Nick Anderson ended the spring on a tear. After a 1-for-3 performance with two walks in a game one win, Anderson broke out in games two and three. In the middle game, the sophomore smacked two a double and a triple, driving in three runs. Game three was even more impressive from Anderson as he belted his fifth home run, laced a double, added a single and drove in three more runs. The Rafter-to-be ends the season with a .263 batting average with 36 runs batted in and 32 runs scored. Teammate Nkosi Djehuti-Mes, who is set to join the Rafters this summer, has hit two home runs on the season.
A strong push at the end of the year for the Purdue Boilermakers helped solidify a spot in the Big Ten tournament. Taking two of three from Minnesota, the Boilermakers now head to Bloomington, Indiana to take on Nebraska. Helping with the final push for Purdue was Rafter-to-be Gareth Stroh. Picking up his stride right before the tournament, the lefty starter went seven dominant innings against Minnesota. Allowing one earned run and striking out four with no walks, Stroh earned his fifth win on the season in the 11-1 game two win. The Boilermakers finish the regular season with a mark of 29-25 (12-12 Big Ten). Stroh lowered his ERA to a season-low 3.92 and added to his strikeout total, upping it to 48. In 14 starts and a team-high 85 innings, the sophomore has also picked up a save on the year in his one relief appearance.
Dustin Woodcock and the SIU Edwardsville Cougars season came to end last week. SIUE held tight with Jacksonville State in its three game series, but dropped all three games. Woodcock had a hit apiece in the first two games. The outfielder has been stellar throughout the course of the season, driving in 42 runs while scoring another 43. With a .330 batting average, Woodcock enters his third season with the Rafters this summer. His teammate, pitcher Mason McReaken saw action on the mound against Jacksonville State with an inning of spotless baseball. Picking up another strikeout, the righty struck out 47 batters in 46 innings. McReaken holds an ERA of 3.88 to end the year. The pitcher pitched to a 2-4 record and led the team with six saves.
Canisius College powered through a tough schedule last week, finished with a mark of 3-1 to end the regular season. In an 8-4 win against St. Bonaventure Ryan Stekl notched a base knock and scored a run. After dropping the first game of the three game series to Niagara, Canisius bounced back, picking up two wins by a score of 5-2 and 7-6, respectively, with game three of the series going 13 innings. In the walk-off win to finish the regular season, Stekl added a pair of base hits and scored a run. J.P. Stevenson started on the hill in the first game of the Niagara series. Lasting five innings, the lefty struck out five while giving up just four hits. Starting in 14 games this year, Stevenson owns the most wins on the team with nine this year. The junior ends the regular season with an ERA 3.74 on the season with a team-high 86 and two-third innings pitched. Stevenson holds a strikeout to walk ratio of 63 to 20. The MAAC tournament is up next for the Griffins, who are waiting to see who they will play.
St. Johns has been one of the top teams in the country this year, holding the 18th spot in the top 25 national rankings with a 40-9 record. The strong year continued with two wins to end the regular season in three games against Villanova. Aaron Herr, who is in his first season with the Red Storm, posted a two-inning outing in relief of a 15-1 game one win against the Wildcats. Herr did not allow a run while striking out a batter. The junior is 2-0 on the season with 13 strikeouts on the year in 13 innings. The Red Storm is set to take on Xavier in the Big East Tournament in Omaha on May 25th.
Andrew Bechtold of Chipola College (45-8) is on pace to hit over .420 on the season after the start of the postseason for Chipola College. Bechtold has shown no signs of slowing down this season, leading his team to five wins in the postseason. The postseason started off with a 5-2 win against St. Johns River State. Bechtold blasted a three-run shot to be the difference maker in the game. In the second game of the week, it was smooth sailing for Chipola, winning handily against Miami Dade College 10-0. Bechtold drove in two more runs with a base knock while drawing a pair of walks. Chipola then won its final three games of the season, all by double-digits. Bechtold had one hit in all five postseason games. The last game on May 10th for Chipola was a 12-0 win against Palm Beach State College. The LSU commit is has 11 long balls on the year. With 60 runs batted in and 74 runs scored, Bechtold helped lead his Chipola to its fifth ever Region 8 Championship. The Indians are slated to play in the World Series in Grand Junction, CO staring on May 27th
Southpaw Jack Eagan finished his forceful freshman year on the mound for Madison College. In his final start of the regular season, Eagan tossed five innings and struck out five in a loss against Kankakee Community College. The starter has put together a strong campaign in year number one. In 60 and two-third innings this year, Eagan owns an ERA of 2.08 with 84 strikeouts and just 27 walks after his last start. Madison College finishes NJCAA Region IV tournament play against Black Hawk College-Moline. Depending on the outcome, Madison will wait and see if they have a bid in the NJCAA Division II World Series starting on May 27th.
Pushing toward the postseason, Belmont Abbey put it all on the line two weeks ago against Miles College. The double-header day on May 11th started with a 15-8 win in game one, with a gutsy performance in the nightcap and a 5-4 victory. Cameron Busby did not start either one of the games, but proved to be vital to the Crusaders second game win. Out of the bullpen, Busby pitched two innings of scoreless baseball while allowing just two hits. The righty earned the victory on the hill in the two spotless frames. Busby now owns an 8-4 record in 104 innings this year with 63 strikeouts. The right-hander has the most innings pitched on the team by nearly 30 innings on the Belmont staff, garnering two saves on the year. Belmont Abbey now awaits a potential postseason appearance in the Southeast Regional.
Cal State- Dominguez Hills season came to an end after its series against Sonoma State three weeks ago. One of the biggest bright spots throughout the course of the season was Brandon Polizzi. The soon-to-be Rafter impressed the entire season. In his last week of the season, he posted a four-for-six game in the second game of the series against Sonoma State. With a double and a triple, Polizzi scored three times. In the season finale, the outfielder notched three more hits, driving in a run to up his season total to 21. Polizzi finishes the season with a batting average of .381. In 49 games this season, the speedster had at least one hit in all but six games. In 25 of those games, he has at least two hits, with three base knocks or more in 11 contests.
The season for Stevens Tech Quinn DiPasquale finished last week in a three game series against St. John Fisher College. DiPasquale finished his season with a start against Ithaca, tossing four innings of two run baseball. Both runs scored on the right-hander were unearned. DiPasquale struck out two and gave up four hits. DiPasquale lowered his ERA on the season to 3.60 after his latest performance. On the year, the hard throwing pitcher is 3-4 with 11 starts and three appearances out of the bullpen. He has 57 strikeouts and just 23 free passes this year in 60 innings.
St. Johns River State completed its regular season on April 19th with a 10-6 victory against Florida State Jacksonville. Nick Owens helped lead his squad to a 36-16 mark including a record of 22-4 at home. Two weeks ago marked postseason play, starting off against Chipola. St. Johns River State came up short against Chipola, dropping the first game of the postseason 5-2. Pressed into the elimination bracket, the offense broke out and led the way to a 13-11 win against Tallahassee. Owens knocked to hits, scored twice, and drove in a run to keep the playoff hopes alive. The next day, St Johns River State went up against Northwest Florida State. A tight battle went to the opposition, with the season coming to a close for St. Johns Rivers State in a 4-3 heartbreaker. Owens was an instrumental piece in the success of the team this year, hitting .328 on the year, with two home runs and 55 runs scored. Owens was held hitless in just 10 of the teams 55 games on the season, with 18 multi-hit efforts.
Matt Schmidt of Cypress College capped off the 2017 regular season with one of his best performances of the year. The freshman blasted his fifth homer of the year on his way to a 2-for-3 day, scoring two runs. He is now batting .267 on the year. Christian Jones of Campbell University has notched four home runs and 23 runs batted in this spring. Seattle’s Sean Sutton has hit two long balls on the year in addition to 23 runs batted in. Keaton Graf of New Mexico State made 11 appearances on the mound out of the bullpen this season. The righty has not allowed a run in seven of his 11 appearances thus far on the year.
The Rafters just announced the signing of TJ Fetters of DMACC and Raul Rizo of San Joaquin Delta College. In the first appearance out of the bullpen of his college career, Fetters tossed a scoreless frame against Northern Oklahoma College on March 4th. After another spotless bullpen showing of two clean innings, Fetters got a chance to start. Cashing in on the chance, the righty dealt three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and followed the performance with a four-inning spotless outing with two more punch-outs. Since then, Fetters has pitched in eight other games, pushing his season appearance total to 12, holding eight starts. The new Rafter finished the regular season with a 2-3 record and pitching in 36 and two-third innings this year.
Joining his teammate Nick Avila from San Joaquin Delta College, Rizo adds a strong right-handed arm to the Rafters staff. The redshirt freshman debuted for the first time in college this past spring. Jumping into the bullpen to help the Mustangs, Rizo’s impact is already being felt. In his first 20 appearances this year, the righty has dealt 20 and a third-innings with a 2-0 record. Holding the closer role for several games this year, Rizo has amassed four saves and holds a 2.66 ERA. In his most recent game on the mound, Rizo pitched a scoreless frame against Skyline on May 6th. The soon-to-be Rafter struck out two, upping his season total to 26. He has not allowed a run in 14 of his 20 appearances. Avila ended his season for Delta College with 17 appearances out of the bullpen, holding an ERA of 1.63 and striking out 37 batters. IN 27 and two-third innings, Avila earned one save.
The season and home opener for the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters is May 30th at 7:05 against the Kenosha Kingfish. Solarus Founders Club, bleacher 9-Game ticket packages, and group outing packages are on sale now. Call 715-424-5400 or stop by the Rafters Front OfficeMonday–Friday from 9-5 to purchase a ticket package or book a group outing.