The best night of the year is always the opening night of baseball. However, it can also be one of the most heartbreaking days of the year, as the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters found this out after dropping the opener to the Green Bay Rockers 6-5.
The scoring started early for the Rafters, but the bats did not come around until later. After a 1-2-3 top of the first that ended in a Nathan Hemmerling pickoff of Chase Hudson at first, the Rafters had three of their first four batters reach by either a walk or a hit by pitch. Aidan Brewer came up to the dish with one out and the bases loaded and recorded a fielder’s choice RBI groundout to give the Rafters a 1-0 lead early. A Chris Conniff RBI single, which was the Rafters’ first hit of the night, in the bottom of the second made it 2-0 Rafters.
Fourth-year Rafter and opening night starter, Nathan Hemmerling, had faced the minimum through two and then came the third inning. The Rockers answered back with back-to-back RBI hits, including a Tristin Garcia RBI double and a Chase Hudson RBI single. The Rafters retook the lead in the home half of the third after two errors were made on a single play, as this plated Aidan Brewer from second. Levi Jensen also had an RBI single to put the Rats up 4-2.
A big turning point in the game was in the top of the fourth. Nathan Hemmerling threw a 2-2 pitch that ended up as a ball. This was not the turning point, rather when Hemmerling landed after the 2-2 pitch, he came up gingerly on his right leg. He would throw the 3-2 pitch and get a strikeout for out number one, but after that Rafters Field Manager, Kirk Strider, emerged from the Rafters dugout to check on his ace. Hemmerling finished the fourth inning while surrendering one more run to the Rockers, but still exited the inning with the lead intact at 4-3.
The Rockers took their first lead of the night after scoring 2 on reliever Alec Burnett in the top of the fifth to make it 5-4. The Rafters scored their final run of the ballgame in the bottom half to tie it up at 5-5. Both teams were held scoreless over the next three frames, as Green Bay’s Logan Berrier was incredible for five innings as he only allowed one Rafter run in the top of the fifth. The Rafters trio of Burnett, Cam Nolet and Preston Howey only allowed three runs over the final five frames, while also whiffing a combined eight batters. However, Howey gave up the game-winning run in the top of the ninth which was a Griffin Selby RBI single that knocked in the torching hot Chase Hudson. Hudson went 4-for-4 and reached base a fifth time in the ninth via a walk. The Rafters were retired 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth by TCU’s Chase Pelter, who received the win while Howey received the loss.
The Rafters will travel to Green Bay tomorrow night to play the Rockers at 6:35 pm. As always, you can listen to WFHR 1320 AM/97.5 FM to hear Brett Loftis and Carter Gledhill call tomorrow’s action with the pregame show beginning at 6:25 pm.
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The Northwoods League is the proven leader in the development of elite college baseball players. Having completed its’ 28th season, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 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, over 280 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time All-Star and 2016 Roberto Clemente Award winner Curtis Granderson, three-time Cy Young Award winner and World Series Champion Max Scherzer (NYM), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and World Series Champion Chris Sale (BOS). As well as 2019 Rookie of the Year and 2019/2021 Home Run Derby Champion Pete Alonso (NYM) and 2021 All-Star, MLB Gold Glove winner and 2019 Second Team All-MLB shortstop Marcus Semien (TEX). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League website. League games are viewable live at watchnwl.com. For more information, visit www.raftersbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rafters as your favorite team.