Rafters Host Express For Interdivisional Twin Bill
Clubs meet in clash of first-half winners highlighted
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – After a weekend tilt in Kenosha, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (38-19, 14-7) return home on Monday for a day-night twin bill with the North Division’s Eau Claire Express (36-22, 11-11). The Rafters and Express met in a pair of games in late June at Carson Park for a day-night double header that ended in a split between the two eventual First-Half Champions. Entering play on Monday, the Rafters have enjoyed a more successful second half than the Express, who have slipped to .500 in second-half play, while the Rafters continue to look down upon the South Division.
When the clubs begin their double-dip in the afternoon, the Rafters will turn to right-handed Northwoods League All-Star Chris Cooper (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) to start. Cooper, who pitched two innings on Wednesday against Battle Creek, has not officially pitched since the All-Star Game due to Wednesday night’s weather suspension. Cooper will attempt to re-gain the form that earned him the starting nod in the All-Star Game, as he enters the game with a 4-0 record and a minuscule 0.86 ERA in 42 innings of work. The Texas native has offered the Rafters quality starts of six innings or more and three runs or less in five of his seven starts to date, including three shutout outings of six or seven innings. Cooper, however, will be tasked with facing an Eau Claire team that has had success at the plate this summer in route to earning the North Division First-Half Championship.
The Rafters will be countered from the Express by right-hander Ryan Zimmerman (St. Thomas), who looks to slow the Rafters’ South Division-leading scoring output. Zimmerman, a native of Minnesota, is expected to earn his first start of the season after four previous entrances from the bullpen. Through his first 14 1/3 innings of the season, Zimmerman has struck out 17 batters and walked eight, while posting a 3.14 ERA and no record. Despite his work coming exclusively in a relief capacity, the right-hander has worked four innings or more in half of his bullpen outings, including his most recent appearance in which he threw 5 1/3 innings of relief in an 8-2 loss to Willmar. In the season-long performance, Zimmerman quieted the high-powered Willmar lineup and held the Stingers to just one run on two hits and three walks, while striking out a season-high seven batters.
Taking the ball for the Rafters in the night cap of the double header will be left-hander Cal Giese (St. Cloud State), who returns to the starting rotation after a brief stint out of the bullpen. Giese, a rising sophomore for the Huskies, is slated to make his fifth start of the season, appearing for a tenth time overall. Entering play, Giese owns a 3-2 record and an ERA of 3.81 in 28 1/3 innings of labor, posting 23 strikeouts compared to 12 walks. In his four starts, Giese has not allowed more than three runs on any occasion and has pitched five innings or more in three outings. While Giese has pitched more than five innings only once this season—6 1/3 innings in his most recent start against Battle Creek on July 15—the Rafters have gone 3-1 in games started by Giese, offering the southpaw 5.25 runs of support per outing. In his most recent start, held the Bombers to three runs (two earned) on three hits without a strikeout or a walk.
Giese will be matched with a fellow left-hander in the form of southpaw Reagan MacDonald (Weatherford), who stands at a towering six-feet, eight-inches in height. In limited action this summer, MacDonald has absorbed an 0-1 record and cultivated a 1.58 ERA across 5 2/3 innings, striking out six batters and walking just one. Of his three previous outings, MacDonald has pitched in a starting capacity only once, working three shaky innings against the slugging Mankato Monologs in an 11-2 loss on July 28. While MacDonald was charged with four total runs, only one was earned, as he scattered four hits and one walk, notching a trio of strikeouts. MacDonald had not allowed a base hit entering his showing against Mankato, having fired 2 2/3 perfect innings in two outings prior. The left-hander will be tasked with cooling a Rafter lineup that, despite a heavy left-handed presence, has torn apart left-handed pitching to the tune of a .301 team batting average this season.
First pitch for game one is slated for 12:05 PM with gates opening to the general public at 11:50 AM. The clubs will again meet in the evening for a 7:05 first pitch with gates opening to the general public at 6:05 PM.
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.