Bucks win Great Plains-East Second Half Championship as Fennelly walks off Loggers

Waterloo Bucks (42-24, 19-13) shortstop Luke Fennelly (0-for-3, BB, R, RBI, SF) played the hero with the walk-off sacrifice fly as the Bucks clinched the 2021 Great Plains-East Second Half Championship with a 7-6 win over the La Crosse Loggers (27-40, 13-18) on Friday night. Emi Gonzalez (2-for-4, BB, 3 RBI), Jackson Lyon (2-for-4, R, HR, 2 RBI) and Jalen Smith (2-for-5, RBI, SB) added multi-hit games in the wild win that saw five lead changes over the final three frames. The Bucks have swept both the First and Second Half Championships for the first time since 2013.

Keaton Parker dealt over 5.2 innings of work in his first start of the summer, scattering seven hits and allowing just one run while striking out four and walking three. The righthander worked at a 60.0% first-pitch strike rate, fired 64 strikes on 97 pitches and kept the ball on the ground at a 55.6% clip.

Waterloo opened the scoring in the first as Sam Biller (1-for-2, 3 BB, 2 R) singled and later came in to score on a Gonzalez RBI single to right-center. Jackson Lyon tacked on two more in the fourth with a massive two-run home run to left, his third of the season.

La Crosse plated one in the fifth then tied the game with two in the seventh. After the stretch, Chris Seng (1-for-4, R) dropped a beautiful bunt single down the third base line then Sam Biller drew a run to put two aboard with none retired. Two batters later, Smith drew a walk before a flyout brought Gonzalez to the plate with the bases juiced. Emi smoked a two-run single into left-center, handing the Bucks a two-run lead.

The Loggers struck back with three to take a 6-5 advantage in the eighth. Smith responded by plating Mike Campagna (1-for-4, R) on a game-tying single poked into right.

Eli Emerson earned the win with 1.1 scoreless frames, working around one hit and striking out one.

Tied at six in the home half of the ninth, Gonzalez drew a one-out walk then was pinch-ran for by Paul Steffensen. With Fennelly at the plate, Steffensen stole second and scampered to third on an errant throw into center by the Loggers’ catcher. Fennelly sealed the win by crushing a walk-off sacrifice fly to deep left-center, tallying the first Bucks walk-off win of 2021.

Waterloo and La Crosse will play their regular-season finale at 6:35 p.m. CST on Saturday night in the Cedar Valley before the Bucks begin their postseason run on Sunday.