By Lance Jones
Jake Engel (Dixie State) had a big night for the Thunder Bay Border Cats on Robbie Johns (Texas-San Antonio) night at Port Arthur Stadium. Despite Engel’s massive night the Cats dropped a close one 11-8 to the Duluth Huskies on Friday night. Thunder Bay retired number 23 in honour of Johns, who played three years at Catcher for the Cats from 2003-2005 and captained the team their first championship. He hit two home runs in game two of the three game series that passed the Cats into game three where Thunder Bay would win their second championship in front of a crowd of 3,091 on a magical night. Engel would pull a Robbie Johns with two home runs of his own.
Engel’s first masher went way deep to centre, a solo home run in the first that gave the Cats a head start off of Duluth Starter Dane Morrow (Pepperdine).
Alex Dafoe (Friends University-KS) cruised first time through the order, however the second time was not so kind to the Border Cats Starter. In the third a two-out rally of three straight hits gave the Huskies the lead. After 1-2 hitters Lance Ford (Texas) and Nic Kent (Virginia) got aboard, Alex Tappen (Virginia) came through with a single to score them both.
The Huskies would add another as Matt Hogan (Vanderbilt) cashed in a Danny Zimmerman (Michigan) double to make it 3-1.
In the fourth Engel mashed his second one and team leading sixth of the season to left into the trees. The hammer time effort brought the Cats to within one.
Both offenses would go B-A-N-A-N-A-S in the fifth. First the Huskies dropped a six spot. A walk and Max Gamm (Nebraska-Omaha) single would get the motor running. An error loaded the bases. Kent came through with his third hit an RBI-single up the middle. Tappen would collect runs batted in three and four in the game on a double to left that hit a pad along the fence. Another double from Zimmerman counted Tappen and would continue the onslaught with nobody out in the inning. It took until hitters number eight and nine in the frame to record an out. A second error in the inning would allow two more runs to score. Eleven hitters came to the dish, six runs altogether on five hits and two runs to make it 9-2.
In the bottom half it was the Cats turn to send their whole lineup to the dish. Thomas Grilli (Panola College-TX) got aboard on a close infield single. Nick Seamons (Palomar College-CA) would walk. One uncorked wild pitch allowed Grilli to score from second and Seamons to go from first to third. Engel would continue with a hot bat, scooping up a third run batted in to plate Seamons. Another Morrow wild pitch on strike three would allow Anthony Galati (Sacramento City College-CA) aboard. Yet another errant pitch allowed Engel to cross home and moved Galati into scoring position. Papí Hernandez (Nova Southeastern-FL) took a 3-1 count from Morrow before he was pulled in the middle of the at bat. The first pitch Mason Bryant (Texas) delivered, Hernandez slammed a runaway double into right-centre to score Galati. Thunder Bay had drawn it within 9-6 with their four run fifth.
It was as close as the Cats would get. Two runs in the Duluth ninth were answered by a two-RBI single sliced to right from Jordan Larson (Northern Illinois) in the home half.
Morrow took the win for the Huskies to go to 4-1. Dafoe took the loss dropping to 1-4 on the season.
DJ DePiero (Bradley University) had a great outing for Thunder Bay in relief of Dafoe. He pitched himself into a bases loaded jam in the sixth but a big strikeout of Hogan got him out of the jam. DePiero recorded four strikeouts over the three innings of work.
Thunder Bay heads down to Wisconsin to take on Eau Claire for the weekend. The Border Cats look for their first win over the Express after dropping the first six matchups. All-Star Festivities commence Monday night in Waterloo.