Madison, WI – The Lakeshore Chinooks traveled west to Madison on Thursday to face off against the Mallards following a defensive battle that resulted in a 2-1 win for Madison in game one of the series on Wednesday.
Heath Rentz (UW-Whitewater) took the mound for the Mallards in his second start of the season. Coming into Thursday, Rentz managed to get through only seven batters in his debut start against Wisconsin Rapids, giving up one run and one walk in his short two innings of work.
Joey Abraham (Vanderbilt) got the start for Lakeshore, looking to pick up his second win of the season after he lead the Chinooks to victory against Kalamazoo on June 1. In that start, Abraham battled control issues early in the game that resulted in five walks being issued, but he overcame his command struggles to limit the Growlers to only one run on three hits in his five innings of work.
After giving up two consecutive singles to start off the bottom of the first, Abraham settled down to get out of the inning unscathed. However, troubles with his command continued to plague him in the second, giving up two consecutive walks to start off the inning. Yet, Abraham once again demonstrated his composure that he has developed from his time in the SEC, getting Nico Hoerner (Standfor) to fly out to right and then striking out Joe Stefanki (San Jose State) to record two key outs with AJ Montoya (Toledo) coming to the plate.
Abraham got ahead of Montoya with a fastball for strike one. On the following pitch, Montoya slapped a ground ball to Chinooks’ third baseman Kevin Riley (Chaffey Community College). However, what appeared to be an inning-ending ground ball soon turned disastrous, as Riley could not field the ball cleanly, allowing the runners to advance easily on the error to load the bases with two outs still remaining in the inning.
The error would cost the Chinooks. Unfortunately for Abraham, his control continued to be his Achilles heel, though he battled valiantly to find the strike zone in order to hold the dangerous Mallard line up at bay. In the end, his efforts resulted in little success, as he proceeded to allow three consecutive walks to Cameron Frost (Washington State), Matt McCann (Fairleigh Dickinson) and Matt Vierling (Notre Dame) to give the Mallards a 3-0 lead.
Though he was finally able to get out of the inning by striking out Lucas Halstead (Pacific), Joey Abraham’s night would end after the second inning, as reliever Marshall Kasowski (Houston) was called into the game by manager Eddy Morgan in the bottom of the third. In his two innings of work, Abraham gave up two hits and three runs, none of which were earned, and he managed to record three strikeouts. But, his outing would be marked by the five walks he allowed in the second inning, bringing his season total to ten in just two appearances for the right-hander.
The Mallards kept their momentum going in the third against Kasowski, as Sam Armstrong (Jacksonville) lead the inning off with a single, later advancing to second on a one-out single by Nico Hoerner. Joe Stefanski stepped up after striking out the previous at-bat and delivered the third single of the inning for the Mallards, loading up the bases for none other than AJ Montoya.
Facing an 0-1 count once again, Montoya drove the second pitch of the at-bat to Kevin Riley, who fielded the ball cleanly this time and managed to step on third for the force out to get the second out of the inning. Though the out was recorded, the placement of the ground ball allowed Sam Armstrong to dash safety from third all the way to home to score the fourth run of the game for the Mallards.
The Chinooks battled back in the fourth. Matt Johnson (South Dakota State) started off the inning with a lead-off walk. Johnson was then thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Zac Taylor (Houston), but a throwing error by second baseman Matt McCann allowed Taylor to advance to second on the play. After Taylor swiped third base on a wild pitch, Kurtis Brown (Richmond) roped an RBI single to score Taylor from third and put the Chinooks on the board.
The momentum of the game switched after the fourth, as the Chinooks could smell blood in the water going into the fifth. Royce Ando (Michigan State) reached on an error by third baseman Sam Armstrong, advancing to second on the play to put a runner in scoring position for the Chinooks with two outs in the inning. Joe Duncan then stepped up and continued to be red-hot from the plate, driving an RBI single to the outfield to score Ando from second and bring the Chinooks within two.
Heath Rentz was replaced in the game by reliever Ty Pennington (Nevada-Reno) in the sixth inning. Rentz ended the night with two runs credited to his name, one of which was earned, on three hits. He managed to strike out two, but he also walked two in his five innings of work. He ultimately would be awarded a no decision, as the Chinook offensive surge was far from being over.
Pennington was able to get Zac Taylor and Kurtis Brown to fly out to the outfield for the first two outs of the inning in the sixth. Then, right fielder Darius Sewell (Georgia State) stepped to plate. After Pennington maneuvered his way around the strike zone to bring the count to 1-2, Sewell shortened-up on the fourth pitch of the at-bat and drove the ball out of the park for his first home run of the year. With the smash from Sewell, the Chinooks were on the doorstep with the score now 4-3 in favor of the Mallards.
After being held scoreless in the seventh, Lakeshore came out determined in the top of the eighth to even the score. Lead-off hitter Zach Taylor reached on the second error of the game by third baseman Sam Armstrong, advancing to second on the play to put a runner in scoring position for the Chinooks. Following a ground ball by Kurtis Brown that resulted in the first out of the inning, Darius Sewell stepped to the plate and delivered once again by smashing an RBI single to score Taylor from second for his second RBI of the game, tying the game up at 4-4 going in the bottom of the eighth.
The game would still be tied upon the completion of the ninth inning, forcing the competition into extra innings.
Kurtis Brown started off the top of tenth for the Chinooks with a lead-off walk, followed by a Darius Sewell single to put runners on first and second. After a passed ball moved both runners up a base, a fielder’s choice ground ball by Owen Miller (Illinois State) allowed Sewell to advance to third, but Kurtis Brown would be cut down trying to score from third on the play by third baseman Sam Armstrong. Alec Olund (Purdue), who was subbed in for Kevin Riley at third base in the eighth, followed by squaring up a sacrifice bunt to score Sewell from third to give the Chinooks their first lead of the game.
After being held scoreless since third inning by a combination of appearances from Marshall Kasowski, Nolan Bond (Houston) and Zach Reeg (Augustana), the Mallards finally answered the Chinooks offensive swell in the bottom of the tenth.
When Reeg replaced Bond in the eighth, he dominated the Madison lineup with ease, striking out three and facing little opposition from his opponents. However, on a 1-0 delivery to lead-off hitter Lucas Halstead, Reeg made his first major mistake of the game, as he watched Halstead crush the ball over the fence to tie the game at 5-5.
Madison reliever Chase Hoag (Fresno State) was brought into the game for the Mallards in the top of the eleventh to try to silence the Chinooks’ offense, but the substitution would ultimately backfire. After Hoag lead off the inning by striking out Royce Ando for the first out, he followed by drilling Joe Duncan with a 0-1 pitch to put him on first base. Then, designated hitter Matt Johnson stepped to plate and produced in the clutch, lifting a 3-1 pitch from Hoag out of the ballpark for a two-run home run that put the Chinooks back on top 7-5.
Hoag followed up the home run by issuing a walk to Zac Taylor, then giving up two successive base hits to Kurtis Brown and Darius Sewell to load the bases with one out in the inning. Then Owen Miller proceeded to drive a fielder’s choice to record the second out of the inning at second base, but the distraction allowed Zac Taylor to score from third to increase the lead to 8-5 going into the bottom of the eleventh.
Brandon Baker (Georgia State) was called on to shut the door in the eleventh for the Chinooks, relieving Zach Reeg of his duties for the night. After issuing consecutive one-out walks to Cameron Frost and Matt McCann, Baker was able to induce a line drive put out off the bat of Matt Vierling for the second out of the inning. Then, with a 2-2 count and the game on the line, Lucas Halstead stepped up and delivered an RBI single to score Cameron Frost from second to bring the Mallards back within two. However, Baker would get Sam Armstrong to fly out to left field in the following at-bat, sealing the game for the Chinooks in an 8-6 victory to split the series with Madison.
Zach Reeg would be awarded his first win of the season, giving up only one run on three hits and striking out an impressive six batters and walking none in his two and one-thirds innings of work. With an ERA of 1.68 through his first three appearances, Reeg now ranks fourth on the team with a minimum of five innings pitched.
Brandon Baker would pick up his first save of the season as a result of his relief efforts in the eleventh inning. He ended the night with one run credited to his name on one hit, with two walks and one strikeout to cap off a quality outing for the left-hander in his third appearance of the season for the Chinooks.
Right fielder Darius Sewell made the difference for the Chinooks at the plate on Thursday, going 4-5 with a home run, 2 RBI's and scoring two runs as he helped a struggling offense find it's rythum in Madison. A stand-out performance by Matt Johnson also carried Lakeshore to victory, with a two-run home run in the top of the eleventh that ultimately gave the Chinooks the run support they needed to secure the win down the stretch.
With the win, the Chinooks improve their record to 5-5 on the season, as the Mallards drop a game to 7-3 on the year. Madison still sits atop the leaderboard in the South Division of the Northwoods League, with Lakeshore trailing by two games in the standings heading into Friday.
The Chinooks return home to Kapco Park to square off against the Waterloo Bucks in a two game series starting on Friday at 6:35pm.
The Lakeshore Chinooks are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 23rd season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 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 150 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit http://northwoodsleague.com/lakeshore-chinooks.