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Chinooks Offense Heats Up to Defeat Madison, 11-3

Madison, Wis. — The Chinooks may have managed to score only two runs in their season-opener against the Mallards.

But this time, they responded with a distributed attack throughout the lineup and effective starting pitching to split the opening series and garner their first win of the season, 11-3.

A four-run fourth inning gave Lakeshore a lead to never look back on, with more offensive fireworks late.

“Yeah, this is a good one,” Chinooks coach Travis Akre said. “You know, it’s good to see our guys make adjustments from last night, just last night we left so many guys on base combined with strikeouts and stuff, but I mean we still had 10 hits last night, but we only had two runs to show for it.  And tonight, we got ourselves in some better counts, were able to put some better swings on balls and we got in those hitter counts.”

The scene remained similar for the first three innings of Tuesday’s matchup, as Lakeshore (1-1) was held to one hit — a single to right field in the top of the first.

The Chinooks’ lineup had an emphatic answer in the fourth, however.

After two-straight singles to right field, second baseman Nathan Rose reached first base on a successful bunt attempt, loading the bases for center fielder Pierce Blohowiak, who knocked an RBI single to center field. Designated hitter Austin Edwards then made it a 4-0 ball game with another RBI single to cap off the multi-run surge.

“I just thought we were a little more calm with it,” Akre said of the lineup’s plate approach. “The guys weren’t so big tonight like they were last night; the guys were big trying to make impressions with other guys. Today they just said ‘Hey, we got to get back to who we are’ and I thought they did a really good job with that.”

Taking the mound in his first start on the season, Ben Cruikshank, a 6-foot-4, 175-pound product of Missouri State, held Madison (1-1) to one walk and one hit before surrendering a leadoff solo home run to Mallards right fielder Bryant Shellenbarger in the bottom of the fourth.

The southpaw remained prepared to dominate after pitching 10 2/3 innings through seven appearances for the Bears this season.

“Pretty excited for it, ready to throw and pound the strike zone,” Cruikshank said prior to taking the mound on Tuesday. “Just show the fastball until they prove they can hit it and then start mixing in off-speed.”

Cruikshank finished with a game-high six strikeouts, delivering three-straight after Shellenbarger’s blast to prevent Madison from continued momentum.

“I thought Ben [Cruikshank] was really good, a good tone setter for the day, too,” Akre said. “He was working quick, guys you know were playing good defense behind him, but you know Ben is going to be an electric guy, you know he’s coming off an injury and he’s eager to contribute this summer, but an electric fastball and a plus plus changeup and that’s gonna give him a chance to get a lot of outs in this league.”

With Cruikshank lifted in the fifth for left-handed reliever Jason DeCicco, the Mallards relied on third baseman JT Benson to steal home and cut the deficit to 4-2 in the sixth, after leading off with a single right field.

First baseman Brennen Bales lined an RBI single to right field with one out in the seventh, scoring leadoff hitter Bryan Aguilar for a 5-2 lead.

And then the Chinooks broke the game open.

Left fielder Josh Glenn launched a two-run home run to right field, padding the Lakeshore advantage to 7-2.

“It felt really good,” Glenn said. “You know it’s been a little bit of a transition just from school ball, but I mean it was just staying in the middle of the field, got a good pitch to hit, and just swung.”

Finishing 4-for-5 at the plate, Bales smacked a three-run blast in the eighth after two-straight Chinooks singles and a walk to keep the pressure on Mallards reliever Joey Kalafut, as 11-2 became the margin.

“Again, the competitive AB’s,” Glenn said. “I mean it was timely hitting, had a couple sac flies, had a couple guys move runners over. I mean we even had a bunt that ended up being a hit, you know that’s just good baseball.”

Madison managed to load the bases in the eighth, though was unable to add more than one run after a sacrifice fly from left fielder Jack Cavanaugh.

An 11-3 lead put reliever Cade Berendt in control for Lakeshore, who retired the final two Madison batters after walking pinch hitter Kyle Bork.

Cruikshank (1-0) picked up the victory, as Mallards starter Ike Buxton (0-1) registered the loss.

“We just talked a little bit at the end here about building off of tonight, you know and getting ourselves in situations that we can have some good at-bats and go play good defense and that’s really just the thing you know when you play every day,” Akre said. “Every win and loss is short-lived and you get an opportunity the next day to get back at it.”

The Chinooks will look to return home to Kapco Park on Thursday with two-straight wins, as they travel to Fond du Lac Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.