Mequon, Wis. — Winners of four-straight road games and one at home, the Lakeshore Chinooks returned to Kapco Park with a renewed sense of confidence.
Though two fewer runs were scored than its prior victory over Wisconsin, Lakeshore again remained a step ahead on the diamond.
Establishing a 2-0 lead for the second consecutive night, multiple-hit performances from the bottom of the Chinooks’ lineup forged the multi-run difference, as the Chinooks (8-7) edged the Woodchucks (9-6) for their sixth win in seven contests, 3-1.
“It’s just good, I challenged those guys once we got into Friday night,” Chinooks field manager Travis Akre said of his team message. “I was like ‘Hey, we got a chance to really just get settled here with this roster now and make a push.’ I challenged them, and they answered the bell.…Our guys really rallied today, and I’m proud of their effort.”
A third-inning rally sparked by right fielder Kai Murphy, who finished 2-for-4 in his Chinooks debut Monday, gave Lakeshore its first baserunner on a leadoff walk. Back-to-back singles then belonged to catcher Riley Swenson and left fielder Ethan Vecrumba. Murphy slid into home plate off a wild pitch of Wisconsin’s starting pitcher Tyler Hoeft.
“They were great today,” Akre said of the two Big Ten Conference products’ performances. “They really started what we had there in that two spot in that [third] inning. There’s no holes, we got a lot of talent in that lineup, we just need to get guys breaks when they can, and guys take an opportunity when they get it.”
The rally wouldn’t fall short of multiple runs, either. Designated hitter Jackson Gray lofted a sacrifice fly to center field plated Vecrumba from third to make it a two-run ballgame in favor of Lakeshore.
Chinooks starter Miles Halligan held the Woodchucks hitless in his first outing. The right-handed freshman of Xavier struck out three batters despite allowing four walks—three of which came in the first frame to load the bases.
“A lot of punches; a lot of K’s on that board today, that’s what I’m going for,” Halligan said ahead of the start.
Facing 11 batters on 51 total pitches, Halligan saw back-to-back deliveries fall inches short of leaving the ballpark in the second—two fly outs to each end of the warning track—yet continued to battle the Wisconsin lineup.
Lifting Halligan with one out in the third, reliever Brody Ware retired the side with a lineout to left field and a strikeout on third baseman Antonio Valdez.
“We’ve just been trying to be a little bit better with communication to our guys, and making sure that we’re getting them enough rest and giving them an outlook for the week, so they can be prepared on when they’re throwing,” Akre said. “Just trying to be a little bit better and a little cleaner with what we’re doing…It’s been good.”
Wisconsin left four runners stranded by the fifth, but would not back down without a push of its own. Following additional empty trips in the third and fourth, right fielder Brandon Trammell filled the bases with a two-out walk. Valdez then battled Lakeshore reliever Mitch Mueller for eight pitches before working an RBI walk, slicing the deficit in half, 2-1.
Mueller didn’t crack, nonetheless, as the Winona State right-hander struck out first baseman Bryson Hill, who finished 0-for-3, to relieve Lakeshore of another bases-loaded jam.
Vecrumba continued to dominate at the dish in the sixth after Murphy’s leadoff single, as the native of Bloomington, Indiana snapped an infield single to score the Arizona State two-way player for a renewed two-run advantage, 3-1.
With Mueller still on the mound in the seventh, the Woodchucks at last broke their hitting drought. Second baseman Noah Fitzgerald tapped a 1-1 pitch towards shortstop, as newcomer Mike Sears failed to convert the 6-3 putout in time.
Trammell followed with a sacrifice fly to center field, moving both Fitzgerald and left fielder Kevin Kilpatrick into scoring position. Mueller bounced back with two-straight strikeouts at the expense of Valdez and Hill to eliminate the threat.
The eighth inning remained quiet for the Woodchucks, who sent pinch hitter Tyler Kehoe with a runner on first. The .357 hitter struck out swinging, however, as shortstop Brock Franks was caught stealing second base.
And once again in the ninth, the Chinooks held their own defensively against the top team of the Great Lakes West Division.
With the exception of a leadoff single to center fielder Roman Kuntz and a two-out walk, right-hander Jacob Henderson closed the door after a scoreless eighth. Valdez grounded out to second base, giving Lakeshore back-to-back series sweeps.
Mueller garnered his first win upon two hits allowed through the sixth and seventh innings, while Hoeft moved to 1-1 with the loss.
Wednesday represents the Chinooks’ first off day of the 2021 season. Lakeshore will travel to Rockford, Illinois Thursday for the start of a home-and-home matchup.
“I just told them to step away from the ballpark for a day and enjoy it, because they’ve earned it,” Akre said. “It’s been a grind for some of those guys that have been here from the start, but nonetheless though, some of those guys are just wrapping up their [collegiate] seasons, too, and now they’re getting an opportunity to have new teammates and stuff.”
First pitch between Lakeshore and Rockford is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.