By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (45-21, 21-9) continued their winning streak on Monday night with a 6-5 victory over the Wisconsin Woodchucks (30-36, 17-14), cooling the league’s hottest lineup. With a late rally, the Rafters surged ahead to take the game’s final lead in the bottom of the eighth inning on an RBI single by Ben Fisher (Eastern Kentucky) and moved to a perfect 7-0 against the Woodchucks in 2016. With the win, the Rafters have now collected six consecutive victories, marking the second-longest streak in franchise history.
The first two innings proved to be shaky for starting pitcher Chris Cooper (Texas A&M Corpus Christi), as the Woodchucks scored the night’s first run on a wild pitch in the top of the first inning. One inning later, a two-run single from Tony Gudino widened the Rafters’ early deficit to 3-0, as the game turned to the bottom of the second.
Following a leadoff double by Brett Thompson (Hope International), third baseman Andrew Turner (LIU-Brooklyn) pulled through for his first hit as a Rafter, ripping a double down the third base line to score Thompson. Later in the inning, Turner took off to steal third base and came home on a Scott Kapers (Valparaiso) run-scoring single to pull the Rafters within 3-2. Cooper followed with a perfect third inning, handing the Rafters a chance to pull even or ahead in the last of the frame.
An inning later in the bottom of the third, Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills) worked an eight-pitch at-bat before doubling down the left field line to open the inning. A single to right field from Richie Palacios (Towson) on the next pitch scored Polizzi from second and knotted the game at three. With a man on first base and no outs, Jake Lumley (Cansius) collected his second triple of the season to score Palacios and offered the Rafters their first lead of the game. The next batter Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago) lofted a sacrifice fly to left field to plate Lumley, collecting his sixth RBI in two games and widening the Rafter lead to 5-3.
The story of the next four innings belonged to starting pitcher Chris Cooper, who entered the top of the eighth inning on a streak of five consecutive scoreless innings. Leading 5-3, Cooper ran into trouble, as Steele Walker led off with a double and Jared Oliva produced a bunt single to put runners on the corners with no outs. A wild pitch from Cooper then plated Walker and a Steve Passatempo sacrifice fly brought home the tying run. Immediately after the tying run scored, Cooper was lifted having thrown a season-high 7 1/3 innings and surrendering five runs (all earned) on 10 hits, striking out a season-high seven batters without a walk. In relief, Reed Stumpf (Dubuque) finished the eighth inning by picking up a strikeout and exited the ballgame hoping the Rafter lineup might offer him his first win of the season.
In the bottom half of the inning, Jake Lumley drew a walk to open matters and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position. On an 0-1 pitch, Ben Fisher (Eastern Kentucky) slapped a liner up the middle to bring home Lumley and pushed the Rafters ahead 5-4. Closer Garrett Schilling (Xavier) then entered in the top of the ninth inning and set the Woodchucks down in order, striking out a pair and earning his league-best eighteenth save of the campaign.
The Rafters will not be in action on Tuesday, as the Northwoods League will observe a league-wide day off in coordination with the Major League Dreams Showcase in Madison. The Rafters will resume play on Wednesday night against the Woodchucks, as first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM and gates will open at 6:05 PM.
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