By Cooper Perkins
Special to the City Times
On a night in which Dustin Woodcock (SIU-Edwardsville) starred by smashing two home runs, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (40-21, 16-9) scored the winning run on a dropped infield pop fly. Thanks to a three-run rally in the eighth inning, the Rafters came from behind to beat the Lakeshore Chinooks (28-34, 13-13) by a final score of 5-4 at Kapco Park on Wednesday night.
The Rafters wasted little time in snapping Lakeshore starter Marshall Kasowski’s 27-inning scoreless streak, as Woodcock delivered the first of his two home runs in the first inning, a solo shot to right field. The 1-0 lead lasted only briefly, as an RBI single from Zac Taylor brought the score even in the bottom of the fourth. One inning later, Kevin Riley led off with a home run to turn the game in favor of the Chinooks and saddle the Rafters with a 2-1 deficit after four innings.
Two innings later, the bottom of the sixth frame proved to be the undoing of Rafter starter Eric Ligda (Millersville), who loaded the bases by hitting a batter and walking a pair before being lifted. In relief of Ligda, right-hander Blair Lakso (Buffalo) walked in a run and allowed a second to score on a fielder’s choice, levying Ligda with both runs and widening the margin to 4-1 after six innings. Ligda, who did not factor into the decision, allowed four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and a season-high four walks, while striking out three.
In the seventh frame, the Rafters began the slow process of mounting a comeback when catcher Joey Morgan (Washington) drew a two-out walk and came all the way around to score on a trio of wild pitches. With the score resting at 4-2, Lakso followed with a scoreless seventh and handed the Rafter lineup a chance to inch even closer in the top of the eighth inning.
Richie Palacios (Towson) reached base for the first time in his Rafter career by drawing a leadoff walk, bringing the tying run to the plate. After a fielder’s choice accounted for the first out, Woodcock stepped to the plate and delivered the game-tying home run by walloping a 3-1 pitch from Cole Gnetz over the right field wall. The multi-home run game was Woodcock’s first as a Rafter and just the second such game by a Rafter this season.
With two outs in the inning, the Rafters stacked consecutive singles from Max Widmar (Iowa Central) and Patrick Cromwell (Clemson) to put the go-ahead runs on base. Morgan then hit what looked to be an inning-ending infield pop fly, only to watch Chinook short stop Royce Ando mishandle the ball and drop the pop-up, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
After another scoreless inning from Lakso and a scoreless ninth from Garrett Schilling (Xavier), the Rafters held on to snap Lakeshore’s five-game winning streak. In the victory, Lakso earned the win, moving his record to 5-0 on the season, and Schilling earned his league-leading fifteenth save of the year.
The Rafters will return to action on Thursday night as they travel to Rockford for a 6:35 PM first pitch.
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