For the City Times
In a 12 inning shoot-out, Rafters top Growlers 13-12 for ninth straight win
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – It took 12 innings and 25 combined runs for the Rafters and Growlers to finish the night from Witter Field, but the Rafters came out victorious 13-12 Saturday night.
Kalamazoo led 12-9 entering the bottom of the ninth, but the Rafters tied in the last frame to force extras and walked-off in the 12th on a Dustin Woodcock RBI single. With the win the Rafters move to 11-1 on the season and sit atop the South Division of the Northwoods League.
Kalamazoo (4-8) jumped out to a one run lead in the top of the first inning after Matt Koehler reached on an error and came around to score on a sacrifice ground-out by Andrew Huff. The Rafters answered in the home half of the inning, scoring two runs on three hits. Dustin Woodcock drove in the first run on a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Bryson Stott. The next batter, Ryan Stekl, singled to left field to score Nic Motley from second base to take a 2-1 lead after one.
The Growlers stormed back with four runs over the course of three innings to jump ahead of the host Rafters. For the second straight night, the number nine hitter for the Growlers delivered a solo home run, with Kyle Ziegler going yard for his first of the year in the second. In the following inning, Andrew Huff singled to right to score Jason Sullivan from second after a one-out double. Huff would advance to third on an overthrow and score on a wild pitch by Rafter starter Tevita Gerber. In the fourth, Javier Martinez led the inning off with a solo shot to left-center to put the visitors up 5-2.
The Rafters loaded the bases to start the fifth inning, and Woodcock brought in his second RBI on the night with a one-out walk. The next batter Stekl would deliver once again, clearing the bases with an opposite field gapper, scoring Nick Owens, Bryson Stott, and Woodcock, to drive in his ninth run on the year and reclaim the lead, 6-5.
The bat of Ryan Mergener remained hot and put the Growlers ahead in the sixth, with his third home run in as many games. With two out and the bases loaded, Mergener launched an off-speed pitch from Mason McReaken over the wall for a grand slam. Four runs on one swing of the bat gave Kalamazoo a 9-6 lead.
The ball continued to carry out of Witter Field tonight as Nic Motley blasted a ball to left, good for a solo shot and his second in as many games with the Rafters. Motley’s home run pulled the Rafters within two after six.
In the seventh, Kalamazoo would add two runs on RBIs from Jason Sullivan and Ivan Estrella to open up a four- run lead. In the home half, Stekl would record his fifth RBI on the night on a dribbler in front of the plate with the bases loaded that Growler catcher Javier Martinez picked up, but Nick Owens beat the play at the plate to score. Ruled a fielder’s choice, the run brought Wisconsin Rapids within three, 11-8. The Rafters would threaten in both the sixth and seventh, loading the bases but failing to push runners across in crucial situations.
After trading runs, the Rafters entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 12-9. A hit-by-pitch and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with one out. Jake Guenther delivered and extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single, scoring Motley from third. The very next batter Scott Kapers grounded a potential game-ending double play to third base, but the ball dribbled through the legs of Ivan Estrella and scored two runs to tie it up at 12. The Rafters were unable to convert and win in the inning, and the game was sent to extras.
Fast forward to the 12th inning and Witter Magic struck. With Bryson Stott standing on second base and one out, Dustin Woodcock stepped up to bat and clutched up. An RBI walk-off single to left ended a marathon game at Witter, and the Rafters came out victorious, 13-12 in 12 innings. In his first appearance for the Rafters, Aaron Herr earned the win after tossing a scoreless 12th. Bryce Welborn was tagged with the loss for the Growlers who fall to 4-8.
The Rafters will open up a two-game series at home against the Madison Mallards tomorrow, with first pitch at 1:05 p.m. Aspirus Riverview Hospital and Clinics will be sponsoring a commemorative World Series Championship Stadium Blanket Giveaway for fans in attendance at tomorrow’s game.