By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
Looking to continue their season-long run of success at Witter Field, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (37-18, 13-6) combined outstanding pitching and a late grand slam to sink the Lakeshore Chinooks (23-33, 8-12) by a final score of 7-3.
After quiet first frames on both sides, the Rafters opened the evening’s scoring in the bottom of the second inning on the back of a two-out rally. After walks by Joey Morgan (Washington) and Aldo Koutsoyanopulos (Stanislaus State), right fielder Doak Dozier (Virginia) lined a single into center field to score Morgan from second base. The 1-0 lead would last only briefly for the Rafters, as Kevin Riley would proceed to tie the game in the top of the fourth with an RBI single of his own.
Rafter starting pitcher Gareth Stroh (Coffeyville CC) then stranded the bases loaded in the top of the fifth inning and fired a perfect sixth to give the Rafters a chance to re-take the lead in the bottom of the inning. Stroh, who did not factor into the decision, turned in an excellent performance for the Rafters, throwing six innings of one-run work. The left-hander scattered five hits and two walks, while striking out four. In his successful outing, Stroh did an excellent job of inducing ground balls from the light-hitting Chinooks and lowered his season ERA to 3.99.
Following Stroh’s exit, the Rafters manufactured the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning, utilizing a single from Demetrius Sims (Bethune-Cookman), a walk from Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville), and a reversed call at first base to place runners on the corners. With two outs, catcher Rob Calabrese (Illinois-Chicago) roped a line drive past the outstretched glove of shortstop Owen Miller and brought home Sims to offer the Rafters a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately for the Rafters, their lead would be short-lived, as Lakeshore responded with a run of their own in the top of the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly.
Locked at deuces entering the bottom of the seventh, the Rafters dipped into their bench looking for a spark and found it in the form of a bases-loaded, one-out rally. Walks by Jake Lumley (Canisius) and Patrick Cromwell (Clemson) sandwiched around a Doak Dozier sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch put runners on second and third with one out. Demetrius Sims was then hit by a pitch on the hand to load the bases for Brandon Polizzi (Cal State Dominguez Hills). In a scene that was eerily similar to Friday night’s game-ending wild pitch, Liam Jenkins uncorked a fastball that skipped past catcher Tim Dalporto and allowed Lumley to score the go-ahead run. Still seeking insurance, Polizzi drew a walk and a pitching change set the stage for Dustin Woodcock to deliver the cushion the Rafters sought. With the count resting at 1-1, Woodcock grooved Jack Landwehr’s offering over the right field wall for a grand slam and pushed the Rafters’ lead to 7-3.
The Chinooks would score a meaningless run off Garrett Schilling (Xavier) in the top of the ninth inning, but the Rafters would hold on to sweep Lakeshore by a final score of 7-3. In the victory, reliever John Jaeger earned his sixth win to move into a first-place tie for the league lead.
The Rafters will return to action on Saturday night as they travel to Kenosha for a two-game series with the Kingfish. First pitch at Simmons Field is slated for 6:05 PM and coverage will begin 15 minutes prior on WFHR 1320 AM at 5:50 PM.
For more information please visit raftersbaseball.com