Border Cats Skid Hits Four

By Lance Jones

Another gem of a pitching performance backed by a stellar offensive explosion seen the Eau Claire Express top the Thunder Bay Border Cats 9-3 on Sunday afternoon at Port Arthur Stadium. Eau Claire has now taken the first two games of the four game series which continues Monday. After Tanner Kohlhepp  (Tennessee) threw a phenomenal start in game one, Eau Claire got a massive bullpen job out of Kuster Kinlecheenie (Montevallo) to lead the way and the offense scored on more of their opportunities as they clearly outpaced Thunder Bay. Eau Claire holds at least a tie of first in the Great Plains East at 11-5 with the win, while Thunder Bay is mired at 2-14 in the basement of the subdivision.

Both starting pitchers had rough starts on the afternoon. Border Cats Starter Mark Anderson (Lafayette College-PA) never seemed comfortable as his start was kind of like a sputtering car that goes a few kilometers before stalling again. It was very un-Anderson-like. In the first he walked the bases loaded on three straight free passes to Brock Burton (Grand Canyon CC), Matt Bottcher (Illinois-Chicago) and Vincent Martinez (Stanford). That set the stage for David LaManna (Notre Dame) to attack a 1-1 pitch and single up the middle to count Burton. Nick Marinconz (Cal Poly) hit a ground ball that with Marinconz beat the relay throw to stay out of a double play and score Bottcher for a quick 2-0 lead. Anderson got a big strikeout of Sam Kohnle (Winona State) to keep the deficit at two.

The two runs were not enough for Nick Herold (Winona State) making his first start for the Express. Herold who’s enjoyed success as a closer for both the Express (four saves) and his college Winona State (eight saves) found himself in unfamiliar territory and the Cats took advantage. Anthony Galati (Radford University-VA) got the offense started on a sharp liner to left-centre for a single. Conor Allard (Nevada-Reno), attacking early in the count, grounded a 1-0 fastball through the left side of the infield to put runners on first and second. Ryne Edmondson (Houston Baptist) won a monster 10-pitch battle before earning a base on balls. With the bases loaded, Alexander “Papí” Hernandez (Nova Southeastern-FL) shot a tough ground ball to second, where Marinconz misplayed the ball, it hit his foot and kicked about three feet to his left.  Two runs scored on the infield single, and shockingly no error was charged, allowing Papí to pick up two runs batted in. A Jakob Newton (Florida Tech) deep fly ball to the warning track marked a loud last out of the inning.

Anderson allowed a single to Sam Stonskas (Blackhawk CC) who Papí caught stealing for the second out of the second inning. Anderson then walked Cole Cabrera (Cal Poly), but struck out Burton to end the threat. Hernandez caught two base stealers on the day, something not a lot of catchers in the league can hang their hat on. In fact, Eau Claire entering play had only been caught stealing 14 times in 138 tries over 51 games.

Herold worked out of a bases loaded difficulty in the home half. Karsten Vasquez (College of San Mateo-CA) walked, Galati got a free pass and Allard singled. But Edmondson could not make Herold pay for it.

It was not until the fourth inning, that the Express took control. With one out, Brandon Dieter (Stanford) walked. Stonskas bunted his way down the first base line and took evasive maneuvers to avoid Jordan Larson’s (Northern Illinois) tag and reach first. The next hitter Cabrera smashed his first of two home runs on the day and his season to take a 5-2 lead.

Herold would get in trouble with the three run lead in the home half. Nate Soriano (Houston Baptist) shot a single up the middle and Vasquez trundled down to first on the last walk issued by Herold. His night was over and Kinlecheenie came in to get an inning ending double play. Herold finished with no decision in his first start working 3 1/3, allowing two runs on five hits and four walks with five punch outs.

Anderson would run into more trouble in the fifth. An RBI single by Kohnle ended his game. Anderson would surrender six runs on six hits to go with a season high seven walks. Anderson who never looked particularly like himself on the mound had two strikeouts and took his first loss of the season.

Edmondson worked hard for the Cats third run of the game. After a one-out frozen rope to right got him aboard. He would swipe second on his sixth steal of the season. A Kinlecheenie wild pitch and a pass ball on the Eau Claire Catcher Martinez allowed Edmondson to count.

Eau Claire’s reliever Kinlecheenie had all he needed for success with six runs behind him. Eau Claire tacked on two runs in the eighth and one in the ninth, but they were unnecessary. Kuster allowed only two hits, one run (unearned) on three walks and three strikeouts. Kinlecheenie has enjoyed great success against Thunder Bay, on the Port Arthur Stadium mound. Consider that he has a season ERA of 6.98. Over 9 2/3 against Thunder Bay this season, he has a 0.00 ERA as he has allowed one unearned run. Against the four other opponents he’s faced (eight outings) over the other 9 2/3 he’s worked, his ERA is 14.67. The Cats cannot seem to solve Kuster Kinlecheenie who goes to 2-0 with the win.

Game three of the four game series is slated for 7:05pm on Monday night. The Express look to continue their winning ways with Nick Alvarado (3-1 3.51 ERA) (Illinois-Springfield) taking the bump. Thunder Bay will look to Alex Dafoe (1-4 5.10) (Friends University-KS) to stop this losing streak. It is Mega Mondays with all you can eat for $32. Also the Water Bottle Giveaway to the first 250 fans courtesy of Everlast Products.