Woodchucks Drop Heartbreaker in Twelfth
Woodchucks Lose Their First Extra-Inning Game of the Year on Controversial Call
Wausau, Wis. – It took until Game 50 of the 2017 Northwoods League Season for the Wisconsin Woodchucks to have to play their first extra-innings game of the year. It was the longest Woodchucks game of the year and one of the most exciting, but far from the least controversial. Two doubles in the top of the 12th inning, including a debatable one that stayed barely fair down the left-field line, led the Madison Mallards (27-22; 8-6) to an 8-7 win over the Woodchucks (20-30; 5-10) Saturday night at Athletic Park.
Wisconsin very nearly completed a comeback Friday night against Kenosha, but Saturday night, they completed one and then some. Madison took a 2-0 lead against Payton Coffman in the fourth on a 2-RBI single by Sam Armstrong before Wisconsin got one back in the bottom half against Heath Renz with a single by Trey Dawson.
The Mallards jumped out to a commanding 6-1 lead thanks to four runs, two of which were unearned, in the fifth. Zac Taylor, Doran Turchin and Jeffery Mitchell, Jr. all had RBI for Madison in the frame. But Wisconsin answered right back as James Davison, Tristan Clarke and Stevie Mangrum all scored in the bottom half to cut the deficit to two after five.
They didn’t stop there. In the sixth, Wisconsin loaded the bases for the second time on singles by Brady Lindsly and Jackson Owens and an error that put Davison aboard with nobody out. Two batters later, Mangrum mashed a sac fly to deep right to score Lindsly, Logan Foster singled to score Owens, and reliever David Stover issued a wild pitch to score Davison and put the Chucks ahead 7-6.
From there, it was up to the usually-lethal Wisconsin bullpen to close it out. Daniel Sprinkle was fantastic in relief of Coffman, tossed 3.2 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and just one hit to set for Orsen Josephina in the ninth. The righty had converted all but one of his save opportunities this season, but Saturday, that number ballooned to two. Cole Daily led off with an infield single and Taylor was hit by a pitch. A pinch-hitter sacrificed them both into scoring position, and a groundout by Mitchell, Jr. forced home Daily to level the score at seven apiece.
Playing into extra innings for the first time this year, the Woodchucks were fractions away from scoring the winning run. Chad Fleischman reached on an error in the 10th and was lifted for Nolan Ryan as a pinch-runner. Lindsly then bounced a double to the left-center field wall and Ryan hightailed it home where he was thrown out by a beautiful cutoff throw in the middle infield and a perfect tag from the catcher.
That preserved the tie. Lenny Gwizdala and Dom Savino each threw perfect 11th innings, but the Mallards did the damage in the 12th. With one out, Armstrong doubled to left and got to third on a groundout. Up stepped Cade Bunnell, who had been hitless in the ballgame until he placed a double down the left-field line that the third-base umpire said bounced in fair territory. That plated Armstrong and gave Madison a lead. Dawson singled in the bottom half, but the Chucks could not bring him home, and the Mallards won it 8-7.
These two teams will have a very quick turnaround before their rematch on Sunday afternoon in the capital city. Korey Rasure of Wisconsin will face off against Tyler Dyson of Madison with first pitch slated for 1:05 PM.
Tickets are on sale to all Wisconsin Woodchucks home games and the 2017 Northwoods League Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, presented by Ascension. Tickets can be purchased online, by calling 715.845.5055 or by stopping by the Woodchucks front office during normal business hours.
Tim Hackett, Broadcasting Intern