Another early-inning deficit was not too steep of a task for the Lakeshore Chinooks.
Though it took 4 ½ innings to mount a scoring rally, they had an answer over halfway through at Kapco Park.
Having trailed 1-0 from the second inning onward, the Chinooks ignited a spark. Lakeshore walked in a run, and then added more scoring in the sixth frame.
Riley Swenson and Colton Bauer worked a pair of two-out walks, setting up leadoff hitter Kai Murphy.
Murphy, who finished 2-for-5, drilled a two-run triple deep into right field and Lakeshore held on to defeat Wisconsin Rapids, 3-1, on Thursday night.
“As the game went on, I thought we made some adjustments offensively and we got a really good pitching performance tonight from all three of those guys,” Chinooks field manager Travis Akre said. “For the most part, we played fairly clean baseball behind them as well.”
After the Rafters’ empty opening frame, catcher Angelo D’Acunto grounded out to score designated hitter Andrew Duran in the second for a 1-0 lead.
Wisconsin Rapids posed another scoring threat in the fourth. An infield single and two walks put pressure on right-handed reliever Ryan Jungbauer, who then struck out the next two batters.
The offensive momentum swung to Lakeshore the next inning. Back-to-back singles occupied the basepaths as Hrustich walked to plate Swenson and even the score at one run apiece.
With two outs and runners on first and second base in the seventh, Rafters right-hander Hunter Waldis lifted Hayden Harris.
Murphy timed a 3-1 delivery to perfection, sending it toward the warning track in right field for the game-winning run.
Right-handed reliever Tyler Kean entered prior to the seventh with a two-run lead, 3-1, and retired nine of the game’s final 11 batters.
“Kean was sharp tonight,” Akre said. “That was his first outing with us and was very clean … There was a point where he was [retiring] six hitters in a row, two pitches per hitter, so very efficient and around the zone, and we were able to play good defense behind him.”
The native of Springboro, Ohio surrendered a leadoff infield single to Rafters third baseman Josh Nicoloff in the eighth but prevented the scoring threat.
Similarly in the ninth, left fielder Blake Mann walked. A 6-4 fielder’s choice play concluded the contest.
“It’s pretty exciting, it’s always great having guys behind you making plays,” Kean said on registering his first save in his Lakeshore debut.
Jungbauer was credited with the victory after holding the Rafters scoreless while yielding two walks and striking out four batters.
Six Rafters batters walked, despite striking out nine times.
“We were just talking about just being a little bit more crisp and trying to eliminate base on balls,” Akre said. “The rest of our season’s gonna go with them. They gotta spearhead us and you know, we just want to be clean so we can play good baseball behind them.”
Lakeshore left 10 total runners aboard yet found the timely hitting it needed late.
“We just told them that we gotta keep that approach we were able to establish mid-game through the end offensively,” Akre said. “But more importantly, we gotta get behind Dorsey [Chatham] tomorrow and hopefully he can fill up the strike zone and give us a good outing. Hopefully, we can set the tone early.”
The Chinooks used three pitchers with right-handed starter Blake Malatestinic, who logged five strikeouts for the first time since June 19 versus Kalamazoo, allowing the Rafters’ only run of the night.
With five wins registered in its last seven games versus Wisconsin Rapids, Lakeshore looks to sweep in Game 2 on Friday at Kapco Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.