Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. — In search of their fifth road win of the season, the Lakeshore Chinooks aspired to continue their prowess away from Kapco Park.
They would have to plow through a low-scoring pitcher’s duel first, though.
Relying on only two hits, the Chinooks (5-7) shut off the Rafters (6-7) late to hand Wisconsin Rapids its first shutout loss of the season, 1-0.
“Nice to be on the good side after a tough loss last night,” Chinooks manager Travis Akre said.
“We couldn’t get a whole lot going offensively, but we played well defensively to put us in position for the win.”
It was right-hander Jack Kartsonas’ turn to start the Chinooks off on the mound, and the right-hander of Kent State failed to disappoint Saturday.
“No nerves,” Kartsonas said on his mind frame prior to his first start of the season. “I started some at school this season, so I am accustomed to it. It’s fun to win especially a close game, it was a good team win. One-run games are always a grind and it’s always nice to come out on top.”
Having allowed one hit and two walks through the first three frames—one of which was completed on five pitches—Kartsonas cruised while leaving the Rafters’ lineup in a rut early.
“Jack competed his tail off today,” Akre said. “He didn’t have his best stuff today, believe or not, but he was able to work ahead and get a few short innings. That’s what gave us a chance to win, hats off to him.”
The Pittsburgh native’s three-hit display across the first six innings gave Lakeshore’s lineup just enough time to find a spark at the plate.
The spark may have not resembled anything near a home run or an extra-base hit, but catcher Stephen Hrustich tapped a groundout to third base, plating third baseman Dalton Doyle for the game-winning run in the fifth.
Kartsonas was lifted in the seventh, yet the Lakeshore bullpen refused to take a foot off the gas pedal. Right-handed reliever Jim Jarecki kept the momentum alive, holding Wisconsin Rapids to one walk while forcing a 4-6-3 double play to end the seventh, and later passed the ball to Cade Berendt for the final out of the eighth.
After helping guide the Chinooks to three wins in four appearances, Berendt struck out cleanup hitter Ben Swords on a full count. The southpaw of Germantown, Wisconsin, eliminated the Rafters’ threat after first baseman Hank Zeisler stole second base.
“A reliable bullpen is huge,” Berendt said. “It makes things easier for everyone, starters don’t feel as much pressure to get deep into games knowing they can trust the guys behind them, and coaches aren’t as reluctant to go to the pen early, if need be, knowing they’ve got guys out there who will get the job done. My mindset is just go in and do my job.”
The Chinooks entered the ninth with aspirations of securing one or multiple insurance runs, though remained empty-handed.
A pair of pop outs to catcher Angelo D’Acunto to begin the top half brought up Lakeshore’s only run scorer in Doyle, but the Eastern Illinois redshirt junior was unable to get his team a runner aboard.
Two-way player Brennen Bales, who capped off an 8-5 victory in the 13th inning over Green Bay for his first win, surrendered Wisconsin Rapids’ final hit of the evening on an infield single to center fielder Couper Cornblum.
D’Acunto then worked a five-pitch walk with one out, setting up right fielder Elijah Dickerson as the winning run.
A light at the end of the tunnel began to appear after the Rafters’ 8 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, as Dickerson lasered a 1-1 pitch towards center field.
But despite not having played a complete game since June 3 versus Fond du Lac, center fielder Pierce Blohowiak was ready.
The Yale product made a backhand catch on the run in the direction of the center field wall, saving the day and keeping the Chinooks out of a sudden death setting in extra innings.
“Relief pitching was great; slamming the door,” Kartsonas said.
Kartsonas picked up his first win as a Chinook after relinquishing no runs on three hits while striking out seven batters through six innings, and Rafters right-hander Ben Vespi was tacked with the loss.
“Great win for the team,” Berendt said. “When you’re struggling like we are out of the gates this season, it’s important to hold leads once you get them, and we did a great job of that tonight. Big morale boost for the team heading into these next three games before the off-day.”
Garnering the shutout win in barely two hours and 27 minutes, the Chinooks will take the diamond inside Witter Field once more against the Rafters Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.