By Lance Jones
The Thunder Bay Border Cats (12-19) threw down a big inning to get the road monkey off their collective backs and responded back in the battle for the Superior Cup by downing the Duluth Huskies (12-20) 8-1 on Friday night. Cats Starting Pitcher Joe Moran (Anderson University) had to deal with a couple jittery early innings and then took care of business until the offense could provide him with some breathing room late in the game. The Cats and Huskies are both eliminated from first half Great Plains East title contention but are playing to set up a strong start to the second half. With the win, Thunder Bay leaves Duluth in the basement of the subdivision.
In the home half of the first, with runners on first and second Moran hit Max Guzman (Faulkner University) with a pitch to load the bases. Moran got a ground ball from Ramon Enriquez (Oklahoma Bapitst) but Wade Meckler (Oregon State) scored as the defense could only turn one out. Another fielder’s choice and a popup meant Moran kept the damage to just one.
Thunder Bay would respond by using textbook small ball work in the next inning. Andrew Shebloski (Saint Mary’s CA) led off with a single. Nick Seamons (Nevada-Reno) sacrificed himself. And Thomas Grilli’s (Panola College) single tied the game.
A single and a balk put Christian Kirtley (UC-Santa Barbara) at second in the second inning. Meckler hit a ball through the hole on the left but Shebloski nailed the throw home to get Kirtley as the last out of the inning.
Duluth Starting Pitcher Dane Morrow (Pepperdine) was pulled after a pretty successful four innings of work. He struck out five, walked one and allowed a run on two hits.
Justin Moore would come on in relief of Morrow. Grilli’s routine ground ball turned into an error as the second baseman’s throw pulled Enriquez off the bag. A follow up bunt by Joe Jimenez perfectly placed down the line pulled the third baseman well out of position. No one backed him up so Grilli alertly took two bases on the sacrifice. Nate Soriano (Houston Baptist) parked a deep fly ball into right allowing Grilli plenty of time to score.
Moran would start to make it rain bagels. He would three up and three down the third, strand runner in the fourth. Moran’s best friend Mr. Double Play would show up in the fifth.
Moore had trouble in the sixth. A four pitch walk to Anthony Galati (Sacramento City College) was an ominous start for the Huskies reliever. Conor Allard (Nevada-Reno) followed with one of his two singles on the night to right. Galati got hung up between second and third in a run down and Allard took second with the defense occupied. Alexander Hernandez (Nova Southeastern) was brought on with another free pass. Shebloski would follow good defense with better offense as he smoked a ball over the defenders head and in the gap for his first triple. Shebloski would score on Grilli’s sac fly to left. With Seamons aboard on yet another walk he would steal second and a wild pitch advanced him to third. Jimenez would score Seamons aided by an error by Kirtley. Soriano would check in with his first triple of the season on a ball that got past the out stretched glove of the right fielder allowing Jimenez to count. Karsten Vasquez (Sacramento City College), the ninth Cat to take the dish in the inning would feast on an RBI-single that wrapped a massive inning. It was six runs on four hits and one error to make it 8-1.
Moore (0-1) would take the loss on the mound for the Huskies as he fought as best he could through the fifth and sixth. Due to defensive let downs he was charged with only three runs earned of the seven he allowed.
Moran would continue the bagel storm in the sixth and seventh notching two strikeouts to strand two walked runners in his final frame of work. Moran’s (3-0) masterclass produced his third win and fourth quality start of the season. He wound up allowing one run on four walks and five hits with four strikeouts.
Aaron Kern (Minot State) came in got a double play from the defense in the eighth and stranded a single in the ninth to finish it up.
The Border Cats head home on Highway 61 looking to play spoiler on home turf against the Waterloo Bucks. The division leading Bucks come to town probably needing a minimum of a split of the four game series in Thunder Bay to lock up the first half title. The Border Cats took three of four from Waterloo in Iowa earlier in the month in what was a bit of a tense series. It will be Hammarskjold High School Free Admission Night with students getting in for no charge with a valid 2018-19 student ID.