Early-inning deficit plagues Chinooks in 7-4 loss
Fond du Lac, Wis. – The Lakeshore Chinooks came off a one-run win at home and a league-wide off-day with rest and a dash of momentum.
Having trekked up to Herr-Baker Field, home to the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders, owners of the Great Lakes West division’s best record, the Chinooks weren’t prepared to start another two-game series without at least battling until the final play.
Squandering an early one-run lead, the Chinooks rallied for three unanswered runs late. But by the third frame, Fond du Lac gained enough control that involved both its starting pitching and its lineup — the Northwoods League’s leader in RBI production with 310.
The Dock Spiders (14-7) poured on a combined seven runs in the third and fourth innings, those of which decided the outcome, as Lakeshore (9-13) fell for the third time in four games, 7-4.
“We just couldn’t recover from those back-to-back innings,” Chinooks field manager Travis Akre said. “They took advantage of a few walks, hits, and an error, and it became a six-run deficit in a hurry.”
Despite remaining scoreless through the opening two innings, Fond du Lac loaded the bases and surged ahead, 4-1, on a pair of RBI base hits by left fielder Tavian Josenberger and catcher Calvin Harris. Continuing their scoring prowess in the fourth, center fielder Victor Scott drove in another run and a fielding error placed two additional runs on the scoreboard, shooing Lakeshore starting pitcher Ben Riffe out of the game.
“Ben just fell behind a few hitters and missed a few spots,” Akre said. “They made us pay for it.”
Riffe allowed five earned runs of the seven total on six hits and four walks, having tossed 71 pitches through 3 2/3 innings. Akre signaled for right-hander Arthur Liebau, who struck out Harris to conclude the fourth.
“Bullpen did a great job,” said Akre of relievers Liebau and Joe Roundtree, who retired 13 of the next 17 Dock Spiders batters despite having combined for 10 total innings in relief on the season.
Entering with an ERA of 1.29 across 14 innings, Dock Spiders starter Jackson Kimbrell tossed four straight scoreless innings, retiring 10 of the next 12 batters faced after right fielder Jackson Gray put Lakeshore on the board with a one-run infield hit in the first.
With runners on the corners in the seventh, second baseman Mack Timbrook hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring designated hitter Justin Olson. First baseman Griffin Doersching followed with a two-out RBI double, slicing the six-run deficit to four in a 7-3 contest.
“Mack’s been putting great at-bat after great at-bat together at the plate and was a spark in the lineup for us again tonight in the leadoff spot,” Gray said.
Liebau forced a pair of groundouts and Dock Spiders third baseman Seth Sweet-Chick flew out in foul territory, yet the Chinooks were turned away in the eighth.
Loading the bases in the ninth, Doersching worked a one-out walk to set up Gray. The Western Kentucky product represented the tying run and kept the line moving with a sacrifice fly to plate left fielder Nathan Aide.
“I’ve just been keeping it simple at the plate and have been thinking about going 1-for-1 every time I step in the box,” Gray said.
Lakeshore still trailed, 7-4, needing further run support. Catcher Josh Glenn struck out for the fourth time and Riffe was tacked with his third loss.
Camden Mounts finished the game with three strikeouts and three walks in his debut for the Dock Spiders.
Lakeshore returns to face the Dock Spiders in Game 2 on Friday, in search of its second victory at Herr-Baker Field in the same week. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
“We have to be able to put pressure on them early,” Akre said. “If we can set the tone, I like our chances.”