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Chinooks fall short to Woodchucks, 6-5

Wausau, Wis. – The Lakeshore Chinooks were not prepared to go down without battling until the very final play.

Despite falling into an almost inescapable hole, they clawed back with a three-run rally in the fourth inning and threatened late.

Second baseman Colton Bauer lined a leadoff double down the right field line, posing an immediate scoring opportunity in the ninth. First baseman Griffin Doersching then worked a one-out walk as Ethan Vecrumba pinch ran.

Though the tying run advanced to third base on a fielder’s choice, the late rally was not enough as Lakeshore (6-10) was unable to complete its comeback in a third straight loss, 6-5.

Wisconsin (9-5) entered Thursday with the third-fewest hits in the Northwoods League, yet unleashed the power of its lineup early toward its eighth win in 11 contests.

Back on the mound for the Chinooks, Tommy Lamb ran into trouble against a Woodchucks team he had not seen in 2021. The southpaw of Creighton relinquished two home runs as Lakeshore trailed, 6-1.

“He’s a competitor, I’ve got no worries about him,” Akre said. “He’ll come back and he’ll be stronger than ever. This is just not a very good outing for him and he knows that, and he’ll be prepared for the next outing.”

Right-hander Brody Ware lifted Lamb after the first two outs were recorded and tossed the subsequent 2 1/3 innings while keeping the Woodchucks to two hits and two walks.

While the Lakeshore bullpen slowed Wisconsin’s offensive attack, the heart of the Chinooks’ lineup ignited a spark in the fourth. A pair of walks and a single hit by left fielder Connor Kimple loaded the bases with no outs. Catcher Riley Swenson then lasered a two-run double to center field for his first RBI since collecting two versus the Woodchucks at Athletic Park on July 13.

Capping off the fourth-inning rally, Bauer scored Kimple on a sacrifice fly to slice the deficit to two, 6-4.

“I thought our offense, I mean they worked our way back into the ballgame,” Akre said. “[We] left a few guys on but I thought we made some decent approaches at the plate, especially with guys on [base] and we were able to get back in.”

Woodchucks reliever Tyler Murrah turned away six consecutive Chinooks batters but was unable to make it seven. Bauer launched a leadoff solo home run to left field in the seventh, reducing the Woodchucks’ lead to one.

Designated hitter Jackson Gray was placed on second with a two-out double to center field as the tying run, but third baseman Stephen Hrustich could not knock in Lakeshore’s seventh hit, striking out swinging instead.

The Chinooks’ bullpen continued preventing the Woodchucks order from converting on scoring threats, as Wisconsin totaled 11 runners left on base. A leadoff walk in the seventh and a 3-4 fielder’s choice offered momentum for the Woodchucks, but reliever Mitch Mueller struck out Wisconsin shortstop Brock Watkins to conclude the seventh.

“Our bullpen was pretty gritty,” Akre said. “We [went] out there and gave up a six and hung zeroes out there the rest of the way. I mean, credit to them for giving us a chance.”

Even with the Woodchucks 1-for-8 through the final three frames, Gray struck out for Lakeshore’s ninth and Hrustich popped out to second base, vanishing the Chinooks’ hopes of snapping their losing streak in extra innings.

Woodchucks left-hander Nate Madej garnered the save in his first appearance after Colin Millar registerd his first hold. Murrah took the win after replacing Wisconsin starter Peyton Schofield in the fourth.

Lamb was tacked with his fourth loss after firing 36 pitches, moving to 1-4.

Having welcomed shortstop Evan Rice of California State Bakersfield and corner infielder Sam Beers of Concordia, the Chinooks search for added offensive contributions.

“Next man up, and that’s what it is you know, guys are hungry to get an opportunity to get in here and play,” Akre said. “We need a little bit of a spark in the offense part so hopefully those guys can help bring that for us.”

The Chinooks return to Athletic Park for Game 2 of their series against the Woodchucks, who look to tie their longest win streak of the season at five. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.