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Chinooks edge Rafters for third consecutive victory

Mequon, Wis. — The Lakeshore Chinooks pushed across enough runs at the right time to secure a third straight win.

Rather than relying on power hitting, a fielder’s choice and a pair of fielding errors proved to be critical late.

Trailing 2-0 after five frames, the Chinooks (6-7) rallied for three runs in the sixth and seventh to defeat the Rafters, 3-2, for the eighth time in 10 meetings.

“Tonight was literally just enough to get it done,” Chinooks field manager Travis Akre said.

Both Lakeshore and Wisconsin Rapids (3-8) combined for 16 strikeouts and 19 runners left on base, yet catcher Josh Glenn reeled in the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

With the bases loaded and no outs, designated hitter Nathan Aide reached base for the only time. A fielding error by Rafters third baseman Jacob Hinderleider proved costly, tying the contest at two.

“Credit to those guys starting the seventh. We extended a few at-bats and that generated walks, and that’s really what got them,” Akre said. “[We] just put the ball in play and they kicked it a few times, and that turned into a couple runs.”

Despite a five-strikeout outing Saturday, Chinooks left-handed starter Tommy Lamb instead ran into trouble early. The Creighton product surrendered a leadoff double to Rafters shortstop Sterling Hayes, who scored on an RBI hit from right fielder McKinley Erves.

Lamb had already tossed over 20 pitches in the opening frame. Third baseman Benjamin Swords earned a two-out walk, though the southpaw collected his first strikeout to catcher Weston Eberly, preventing further damage.

Having retired eight of the next nine Wisconsin Rapids hitters faced, Lamb settled in from the start of the second. First baseman Brennen Bales made an acrobatic over-the-shoulder grab in foul territory to retire Swords and Eberly flew out to the warning track to close the fourth.

“Tommy pitched really well after the first inning. I think he was at 30 pitches after the first and really settled in,” Akre said.

The Lakeshore lineup remained relatively quiet out of the gates, meanwhile. Though the Chinooks managed four hits across the first five frames, their three scoring threats were eliminated as Rafters starting pitcher Devin Rivera struck out five hitters through four innings.

Relinquishing back-to-back base hits with no outs in the fifth, Lamb prevented Wisconsin Rapids’ third run from scoring. Center fielder Addie Burrow rolled an 0-1 delivery in the direction of Bales, who caught left fielder Blake Mann in a fielder’s choice rundown. A rare 4-5 double play stranded two Rafters runners in scoring position.

The defensive prominence transitioned into Lakeshore’s established momentum in the sixth. In his last game of 2021, center fielder Kai Murphy tapped in an RBI fielder’s choice to score Glenn and slice the deficit in half, 2-1.

Right-hander Mitch Mueller lifted Lamb to start the seventh and held the Rafters scoreless. The reliever of Winona State began by relinquishing an infield single but then sat down sixth of the next seven batters, allowing only two singles.

Signaled upon to deal the ninth inning, closer Jacob Henderson faced no issues in the first two hitters he faced.

The Iowa right-hander found himself tangled in a bases-loaded jam, nonetheless.

Back-to-back base hits and a full-count walk held the full attention of the 807 fans inside Kapco Park. Henderson then caught center fielder Addie Burrow looking, garnering his second strikeout and third save of the season.

“Mitch did a great job and Hendy worked out of a jam,” Akre said.

Mueller moved to 3-1 having picked up the win, while Rafters reliever Dylan Brandl was tacked with his first loss.

Up next, the Chinooks welcome in the Mallards for a two-game series. Lakeshore defeated Madison, 11-4, in Game 2 of its doubleheader at Warner Park on Wednesday.

“They’re going to come in ready to play, so we do, too,” Akre said. “These are the tough games because when you got a break right around the corner, it’s very easy to not focus and lock in on your at-bats in day-to-day. So, that was our message to come out and play hard tomorrow and compete.”

First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.