by Lance Jones
In a real 50-50 game on Sunday afternoon Thunder Bay and Eau Claire matched each other all day long until finally the Border Cats took the lead for good in the ninth and exercised the demons they’ve had against the Express with a 5-4 victory at Carson Park. The Cats offense picked up 15 hits and scored in the seventh, eighth and ninth after Eau Claire scored in the fifth, sixth and seventh to make the game pretty wild late. It was the Cats first win over Eau Claire in eight tries.
The Express took an early lead on Starter Mark Anderson in the first inning. Anderson would walk Cole Cabrera (Cal Poly) on four pitches. He would steal second pretty quickly. Matt Bottcher (Illinois-Chicago) bunted and moved him to third. Troy Beilsmith (Evansville) would take the first Anderson pitch and lift one to left for an RBI single.
This would give Express Starter Craig Colen (Cal Poly) a 1-0 leadd which he held on to until Thunder Bay would strike back in the fourth. Jakob Newton (Florida Tech) fought off a couple at the plate before lining on into centre. On the bounce, Cabrera would fumble it around, allowing Newton to take second. Newton would be credited with just his second double of the season on one of his four hits on the night. Joe Jimenez (Chapman University-CA) sacrificed himself to move Newton to third. A Colen fastball would have been pumped into the crowd had their not been netting. This allowed Newton to home to tie it. Nate Soriano (Houston Baptist) would take the lead for Thunder Bay as he crushed one to the deepest part of the park for his first home run of the season.
One swing of the bat would tie in the Express fifth. Nick Marinconz (Cal Poly) brother of former Express player Kyle Marinconz lined his first home run to left off Anderson.
The Express would keep it going in the sixth. Another long ball off the bat of Beilsmith allowed the Express to retake the lead. It was Beilsmith’s second of the season as he ended up two-four-four with two runs batted in.
Both starters retired without a decision. Anderson would finish with six strong innings, allowing three runs on six hits to go with two walks and two strikeouts for the Cats. His counterpart, Colen managed four innings with two runs on five hits a walk and five strikeouts.
With Colen gone, Peyton Sherlin (Dallas Baptist) would pitch shut out fifth and sixth innings for Eau Claire before giving way to Jack Brown (Minnesota State) in the seventh. Jordan Jackson (Nevada-Reno) would be the first man out of the pen for the Cats in the seventh with the game at 3-2 Eau Claire.
Karsten Vasquez (College of San Mateo-CA) lined a single to right to start the seventh. Nick Seamons (Palomar College-CA) bunted Vasquez to second. Jake Engel (Dixie State-UT) would come through with one of his three hits on the afternoon. He smashed a double that was tough to track in right for his ninth double and 23rd run batted in.
Eau Claire would retake the lead in the bottom half. With Brandon Dieter (Stanford) aboard on a Jackson walk, Zach Gilles (Central Michigan) popped up a sky ball that was dropped on the infield. The ensuing throw got Dieter out at second. Bottcher, the all-star knocked in Gilles from first with a double that took one hop to the fence.
Newton and Jimenez would hit back to back singles up the middle seen the Cats get cracking on trying to retake the lead in the eighth. Soriano would hit one through the hole one the left side to come through and tie it. Soriano finished three-for-four with two runs batted in.
Eau Claire could not cash in a double off of Jackson in the eighth setting up an important ninth. Brown got back-to-back strikeouts against the Cats to start the inning. Then it all fell apart for the Express reliever. Engel squeezed one through the left side of the infield to keep it going. Anthony Galati with a big two out single lined one into centre to push Engel to second and collect his second hit of the night. Newton came through with a run-scoring single to right to take another lead for Thunder Bay.
Ryan Windham (Creighton University-NE) hit a batter with a pitch but cleaned up the rest for his first save. That made a winner out of Jackson who went to 1-1. Brown took his first loss dropping to 2-1.
The win gave Thunder Bay a split with the Express after they dropped an 11-3 decision in game one on Saturday night. Ryne Edmondson (Houston Baptist) was one-for-one with three walks as he got aboard all four times he came to the plate. Austin Breazeale (GateWay CC-AZ) took the loss in his last start of the season for Thunder Bay. Jakob Newton was two-for-five in the loss with a run batted in. Peyton Burks (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) managed 4 1/3 out of the bullpen allowing all of two hits and one run on one walk and two strikeouts in a great effort to give his team a chance to comeback in the game. Game one also seen Karsten Vasquez who’d been dealing with a wrist injury make his long awaited return to the lineup. His last game played came on June 29th.
Thunder Bay heads into the all-star break at 16-31 and 2-10 in the second half. Eau Claire shares the division lead in the second half with the Border Cats next opponent the Duluth Huskies at 8-4. The Express dropped to 27-21 overall. The second half winners will meet the Waterloo Bucks in the first round of the Northwoods League playoffs. Entering the break the La Crosse Loggers are a game back, Waterloo is 4-8 and four games back while Thunder Bay remains just six games back despite a rough start. You can follow all the all-star festivities through the Northwoods League website.