Wausau, Wis. — When Ethan Vecrumba is delivering, he remains one of the most reliable hitters in Lakeshore’s lineup.
It happened to be one of those nights against the Woodchucks — one of the Great Lakes Division’s best ballclubs.
Setting the tone early, Vecrumba registered back-to-back home runs in the first two innings. The Chinooks relied on a firework-type display of hitting in route to a 10-5 victory over the Woodchucks (21-14) inside Athletic Park.
“We swung it well tonight, we’ve been swinging it pretty well lately, and that gave us the chance to win the ball game,” Chinooks field manager Travis Akre said. “There’s a lot of talent in that dugout.”
Instead of attempting another early-inning comeback, Lakeshore (16-18) established a two-run advantage in the first. Vecrumba led off with a home run on the third pitch of the evening for the game’s first run. Third baseman Stephen Hrustich added a one-out double to push the Chinooks ahead, 2-0.
“Coming out leading off and hitting a home run kind of set the tone for the game,” Vecrumba said. “And for my team, I think they followed along and kept the hits coming.”
Chinooks right-handed starting pitcher Jack Kartsonas allowed three combined runs through the first three frames, though settled in and retired 12 consecutive Woodchucks by the two-out mark of the seventh.
“I thought Jack settled in after there in the third inning, he made some good pitches, and gave us a shot to win,” Akre said. “He hung three zeros up there in a row and really was in control of the [seventh] inning, too. He just missed control on a pitch that turned into a home run.”
Continuing the momentum offensively in the second, Vecrumba drilled a three-run home run to the same spot in right field. Riley Swenson and Mike Sears both scored after reaching base on a one-out walk and single to left field, respectively.
“It’s not easy making the lineup every day,” Akre said. “But Ethan stepped up today and put some really good swings on the baseball today, and got some really good results,” Akre said.
Chinooks hitting coach Keith Ritsche has played a notable role in guiding the contact hitter toward his Northwoods League successes thus far.
“He’s been great, I mean he’s a really good guy,” Vecrumba said of his relationship with Ritsche. “I try to stay consistent, do my work every day, get the routine the same, and I was in the lineup today, so I just did my best to do my best.”
Far from finished, the Chinooks’ firework display was just underway. Collin Mathews registered his fourth home run of 2021 and the 3-1 Lakeshore lead with a leadoff blast in the third.
A pair of 1-2-3 trips kept the Lakeshore bats silent heading into the seventh while Kartsonas continued to deal.
But having homered only twice all season, Mike Sears was due.
Leaving the yard after Colton Bauer scored on a wild pitch, the Indiana State redshirt sophomore plated Swenson and emptied the basepaths once more.
The Chinooks possessed a comfortable 7-3 lead. The bottom of the Woodchucks’ order tacked Kartsonas with two additional earned runs, nonetheless. Center fielder Tyler Kehoe managed a two-run home run of his own.
Lifting Kartsonas after 6 2/3 innings, reliever Tyler Schweitzer retired the side with a strikeout in the seventh. The southpaw then struck out five of the next six batters he faced.
The momentum from a four-run seventh frame did not sustain. The Chinooks left two base runners on after Mathews doubled to center field in the eighth and only managed a Sears walk in the ninth.
Schweitzer held the Woodchucks scoreless and Kartsonas garnered his third win with five runs allowed on eight hits, though walked none with tallied three strikeouts. Vath took the loss having also relinquished the first five runs.
Lakeshore walked eight times, in addition to its nine hits shared throughout the order.
“I think we’re as good as anybody else in this league,” Vecrumba said. “The July Nooks are hot and we’re gonna prove that.”
Now owners of a 3-2 mark against Wisconsin this season, Lakeshore hopes to reach the halfway point on a high note.
“I told the guys today, we got a chance to eliminate them from playoff contention,” Akre said. “That’s something to play for and that’s momentum going right into the second half [of the season] especially in a big week going home, so our guys like playing here. It’s a hitter’s ballpark and we gotta come out tomorrow and score more runs than they do.”
Both the Chinooks and the Woodchucks will take the diamond for Game 2 Monday. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.