By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
A seeing-eye single from Richie Palacios (Towson) in the bottom of the tenth inning pushed across the winning run and lifted the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (46-21, 22-9) to their fifth walk-off victory of the season. With the 4-3 win, the Rafters clinched an unbeaten 8-0 mark against the Wisconsin Woodchucks (30-37, 17-15) and pushed their winning streak to a season-high seven games—the second longest winning streak in franchise history.
With an off day sandwiched between meetings with the Woodchucks, the Rafters looked to complete a season sweep of the ‘Chucks on Wednesday, sending right-hander Eric Ligda (Millersville) to the mound. Following a dominant three-inning stretch to open the evening, the Woodchucks struck for the night’s first score in the top of the fourth inning on an error by Palacios at shortstop. In the bottom of the frame, infielder Jake Lumley (Canisius) scored to tie the game after leading off with a single and moving to third base on a Joe Wainhouse (Washington) double. With just one out, Ben Fisher (Eastern Kentucky) lofted a sacrifice fly to center field to plate the tying run.
Courtesy of an error and an RBI single by Steele Walker in the top of the fifth inning, the Woodchucks promptly reclaimed the lead. One frame later, a bizarre sequence involving a rundown at second base and a close play at the plate extended the Woodchuck lead to 3-1. In the bottom half of the sixth, the Rafters mounted a two-out rally catalyzed by a Ben Fisher walk, an error by shortstop George Janca to put Joey Morgan (Washington) on first, and a walk by Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills). A wild pitch from Jonah Dipoto one offering later allowed Fisher to come home and cut the Rafters’ deficit to 3-2.
With Ligda removed after 5 1/3 innings of work in which he allowed three runs (one earned), the Rafter bullpen bridged the ensuing three innings to offer their lineup a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. John Jaeger (Sterling College) and Blair Lakso (Buffalo) combined to throw 3 2/3 scoreless innings, keeping the Rafter deficit at 3-2 entering the last of the ninth.
Following a pinch-hit, lead off single by Max Widmar (Iowa Central), Richie Palacios attempted to drop down a sacrifice, only to watch pitcher Michael Imperato slip, fall, and throw the ball down the first base line. The error allowed the tying run to score all the way from first base and placed the possible winning run on third with no outs in the inning. A pop out by Lumley and a 1-6-3 double play ball off the bat of Wainhouse stunted the Rafters’ hopes at plating the winning run and pushed the game to extra innings.
Reed Stumpf (Dubuque), the game’s eventual winning pitcher, entered in the tenth inning and worked a scoreless frame, handing the lineup a chance to win the game. With one out, Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago) and Brandon Polizzi stacked a pair of hits to put runners on first and second. A wild pitch and an intentional walk then loaded the bases with only one out for Scott Kapers (Valparaiso). Despite battling with Imperato, Kapers popped out to second, leaving the bases loaded and two outs. Previously hitless, Richie Palacios stepped into the batters box and hooked a single into right field to score Calabrese from third, lifting the Rafters to a seventh straight win.
The club will resume action on Thursday night against the Kalamazoo Growlers at Witter Field. First pitch is set for 7:05 PM and gates will open to the general public at 6:05 PM.
For more information please visit raftersbaseball.com