THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO – An old baseball adage says, “The hardest out to get is the last one.” Well, the Larks had to work a tad bit extra to do just that.
The Bismarck Larks beat the Thunder Bay Border Cats by a final score of 7-4 in one of the more wild finishes on the 2017 season.
Both of the starting pitchers looked sharp out of the gates. Border Cats starter Ben Gilliland used three 1-2-3 innings throughout his first four innings of work to keep the Larks offense off the board.
Larks starter and Northwoods League All-Star Tyler Steele had to work a little bit harder but ultimately got the same result. Steele stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the first inning after recording back-to-back strikeouts. He followed that up by leaving a pair of runners on first and second to end the third.
Steele’s night was over after three innings due to Northwoods League rule that a player must be available to pitch in the all-star game. Steele threw just 58 pitches completing three scoreless innings while working around three hits and three walks.
The top of the fifth inning is when the Larks offense broke out of a 12 innings scoreless streak dating back to last night.
Scooter Bynum led off the inning flaring a single into left, advancing to second on a wild pitch, and stealing third base for his sixth stolen bag of the year. Newt Johnson helped the Larks get on the board delivering an RBI single to snap a personal 0 for 9 streak dating back to July 12th.
With the score now at 1-0 in favor of the Larks, the Canadian native and former Border Cat Luke Horanski dug into the box. Horanski welcomed himself back to familiar territory with a two-run home run to left-center field extending the lead to 3-0.
Gilliland was out of the ballgame after going six serviceable innings and the Border Cats called upon Connor Centala to work the top of the seventh. The Larks sensed fresh blood and tagged Centala for three runs.
Cooper Coldiron tripled into left-center scoring Philip Jacobson. Connor Perry grounded out to the right side scoring Coldiron. Later in the inning, after Wyatt Ulrich singled and worked his way over to third, Ryan Anderson continued to swing a hot bat with an RBI single right back up the middle.
Six and a half innings of play were complete and it was 6-0, the Larks were on top.
After another RBI from Perry via a sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth inning, the Larks extended their lead to 7-0 and it seemed like smooth sailing from here on out.
Especially with what the Larks were getting out of Frank Greco.
Greco, in his first relief appearance of 2017, was nothing less than dominant. The former starter took over for Steele starting in the top of the fourth and looked well on his way to completing a shutout.
In his first four innings, Greco allowed just one runner to get into scoring position. He used six groundball outs, one of those a double play, four fly ball outs, and one strikeout to stifle the Border Cats offense. The only minor bump in the road for Greco came in the bottom of the eighth inning when Jean-Francois Garon lined an RBI double off the left-field fence to make it 7-1.
Greco was looking so sharp that Field Manager Sean Repay had no reason to go to the bullpen. Greco trotted out for the ninth to try to close out the Border Cats and give the Larks their 21st win on the season.
Now that was a task and a half.
Two runs had already come across to score due to a two-run single by Colin Rosenbaum before Greco got a much needed, albeit unique, double play. Noah Strohl grounded a ball to Johnson at third where he stepped on his own bag and threw across the diamond for the rare 5-3 double play.
After Braden Mosley responded with an RBI single to make it 7-4, Coldiron would make his second error of the game on the potential game-ending groundball as he overthrew Noah Sadler at first.
This forced Repay to go to Noah Luedtke out of the bullpen and it brought the game-tying run in Garon up to the plate for Thunder Bay.
With runners on second and third, Luedtke spiked a 1-2 pitch in the dirt that bounced away from Horanski at home. According to Pointstreak.com, Garon swung and struck out to the end game.
The game ended on a controversial call as the umpire threw out the Field Manager Mitch Feller from the already concluded ballgame.
After all was said and done the Larks came out on top with a 7-4 victory.
The bright spot for the Larks was their offense, specifically the bottom of the order. The Larks pounded 13 hits on the night with nine of those hits coming from batters six through nine in the lineup.
The Larks will look build off their best offensive showing in their last four games in hopes of taking three out of the four games in their only visit to Thunder Bay on the season.
They have a chance to do that tomorrow with the first pitch scheduled for 1:35pm ET.
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The Bismarck Larks are apart of the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 170 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. For more information, visit www.northwoodsleague.com or download the Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play