Rafters Drop First Game Of Twin Bill 5-3
Quiet afternoon at the plate sinks Rafters
Eau Claire, Wis. – In the first half of a day-night double header, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (19-10) fell to the Eau Claire Express (20-9) by a final score of 5-3. The loss prohibited the Rafters from doubling their South Division lead over the Madison Mallards, who fell in Rockford earlier in the day.
For the Rafters, right-handed arm Dylan File (Dixie State) made his fourth start of the season and was saddled with the loss after tossing six innings in which he allowed five runs (three earned) on seven hits and one walk. Earning his first win of the season for the Express was Chase Beal (Yavapai College), who turned in a quality start and posted a final line of six innings pitched, three runs allowed (two earned), five hits against, two walks issued, and two strikeouts notched. Reliever Dylan Smith earned his team-leading third save for the Express and sealed the Rafters’ fate on Wednesday afternoon.
The Rafters mounted a threat early in the ballgame, loading the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning. Joey Morgan (Washington) roped a line drive to second that was snared by Kyle Marinconz and Ben Fisher (Eastern Kentucky) grounded into a double play to end the inning and let Beal off the hook.
In the bottom of the first, the Express utilized a leadoff walk by Ben Mezzenga to put a runner on base and no outs. On a chopper to second base, Jake Lumley (Canisius) attempted to tag out Mezzenga before throwing to first, but was ruled to have missed the tag, allowing Mezzenga to take second. Two batters later, Mezzenga would come across to plate the first run of the ballgame on an Alex McKenna single with two out, pushing the Rafters to an early 1-0 deficit.
After two quiet innings to open the game, the Rafters finally broke through at the plate in the top of the third inning thanks to singles by Scott Kapers (Valparaiso) and Lumley followed by a wild pitch from Beal. With two runs across in the inning, the Rafters took a 2-1 advantage into the bottom of the third inning before Zac Alford, who began the inning with a double against File, came across to score on a fielder’s choice. After three innings, the game sat locked in a 2-2 tie.
The seesaw ballgame continued into the fourth inning, when the Rafters received a solo home run from Logan Mattix (Georgia College) to left field to break the tie. The home run was Mattix’s team-best sixth of the season. Unfortunately for the Rafters, their newfound lead would not last long, as Eau Claire exploded to plate three runs and take a 5-3 lead into the fifth inning. Singles by Mickey McDonald and Rudy Rott put runners aboard before a fielder’s choice brought home McDonald. With two outs in the inning, File looked to finish the inning tied, but Eau Claire’s Ben Mezzenga turned on a pitch over the plate and lined a two-run home run to the short porch in right field. The long ball put the Express in front 5-3 after four innings.
The ensuing five innings would be characterized by empty rallies by the Rafters, who failed to score again after Mattix’s home run in the fourth inning. With two out and runners on first and second, Patrick Cromwell (Clemson) was struck out to end the game, stranding the tying runs on base. The loss drops the Rafters to 19-10 on the season and leaves them one game ahead of the Madison Mallards for the top spot in the South Division.
The Rafters and Express will meet again Wednesday night at Carson Park for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch.
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 23rd season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 150 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.raftersbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and set the Rafters as your favorite team.