LA CROSSE, WI – By this point in the season, I have seen a few La Crosse Logger baseball games. There have been some great games, but the game against the Bismarck Larks on Friday night may have been the game of the year.
The Loggers struck first in the bottom of the first, albeit, in unconventional fashion. Outfielder Michael Dixon (Concordia-Irvine) stood on first after a fielder’s choice as Troy LaNeve (Vanderbilt) stepped to the plate. LaNeve was hit by a pitch, or so it seemed. The home plate umpire called ball as Dixon trotted to second, assuming a hit-by-pitch had been ruled. LaNeve argued that he was hit by the pitch and the umpire would not budge. While everyone was distracted, Dixon sprinted toward third to steal. The Lark pitcher overthrew his third baseman, allowing Dixon to round third and head home. Sliding in safely, the score was 1-0 on a play that probably should have never happened. Nonetheless, Dixon’s smart base running and ability to take advantage of the confusion put the Loggers ahead.
Innings two through four belonged to the Larks. Two doubles to begin the second would tie the game at 1-1. In the third, Nick Oakley hit a home run to right field to give the Larks the lead. In the fourth, Brock Kleszcz lead-off with a home run of his own to make the score 3-1. An error and a single would follow before Benjamin Rosengard would hit a double to deep right field to drive in another. To make things even worse, another error allowed men on second and third to score as well making the score 6-1. The score would stretch to 7-1 in the top of the fifth as Connor Misch joined the Bismarck home run parade with a solo shot to left-center field.
In the bottom of the fifth, it was time for the Loggers to string some hits together, and that is exactly what they did. After two singles and a stolen base to begin the inning, Michael Dixon hit a sacrifice fly to score one. The next batter, Troy LaNeve, grounded out to second base, but drove in another run in the process. After five, the score was 7-3.
In the seventh, Logger infielder Jackson Cobb (Kansas) was hit by a pitch with two outs in the inning to advance to first base. Cobb would then steal second before a Gable Mitchell (Iowa) double would drive him in. Mic Paul (LSU) would then step to the plate and help out Mitchell by singling to drive the Hawkeye in and set the score at 7-5.
In the bottom of the eighth, Justin DeCriscio (San Diego) led off the inning by pinch hitting and advancing to second on an error. Matthew Piotrowski (Cal State LA) would pinch hit as well, singling to center field and driving in DeCriscio. The Loggers would load the bases with two walks forcing the Larks to make a pitching change. Ryan Bourassa came into the game and his nasty forkball struck out the next two Logger batters, stranding the bases loaded with the score 7-6 in favor of the yellow birds.
Bourassa was untouchable in the eighth but the Loggers kept their heads up as he took the mound in the ninth. To lead off the inning, Jack Collins (Long Beach State) walked on his first plate appearance of the night before Austin Smith singled as a pinch hitter on an 0-2 count. Next man up Justin DeCriscio would walk on five pitches, loading the bases with no outs. Bourassa answered back with a strikeout of Matthew Piotrowski before Gable Mitchell returned to the plate. On an 0-1 count, Mitchell hit a ball toward second base that was scooped up to get DeCriscio out trying to advance to second. Now with two outs, the Lark second baseman threw to first to complete the double play and end the game but the throw was high and Mitchell was safe at first! Jack Collins was just crossing the plate as Austin Smith sprinted toward home behind him. The throw came in from first but it was not it time as Smith slid in safely and Copeland Park erupted with the loudest cheers so far this season. The Loggers had won and walked off the game in improbable fashion. The Larks were left stunned. It was truly a comeback worth writing about.
The Larks fall to 14-17 while the Loggers improve to 11-20. The two teams will face off once again on Saturday night at Copeland Park to play the second game of the two-game series.