Border Cats sinking fast
By Gary Moskalyk
There was a bad moon rising over Port Arthur Stadium’s Tbaytel Park as Tyler Rolland of the Eau Claire Express hit a three-run home run in the 11th inning and Thunder Bay Border Cats dropped an 8-5, 11-inning decision in Northwoods League action on Thursday night.
In a game that could fairly be called “must win,” the Cats dropped to 1-7 in the second half of the season. With 29 games to go, Thunder Bay must claw over all eight division opponents to capture top spot to make the North Division playoffs.
Piling on the losses won’t make that feat any easier.
“We came out early, did some early work today. Had a good feeling,” said Border skipper Johnny Hernandez. “They say it’s a game of inches. You make a mistake by an inch, good teams make you pay for it.”
The first-place Express improved to 7-2.
Austin Griffie carried the loss for Thunder Bay. The big blow was a three-run homer to Jeff Hendrix in the eleventh. Rolland slugged one over the right field wall in the top of the inning to make it 8-5 and Thunder Bay went down in order to close out the game in front of just 771 fans.
“It’s frustrating, you know. Nobody likes to go out there and get their butt kicked every night,” Hernandez continued. “I was telling the guys we could easily be 5-2. Now we’re 1-7. I think we’re still in it. We just got to keep fighting, keep working.
“(Cats starter Ryan) Powers came out and gave us a chance,” he continued. “I thought our relievers came out and gave us a chance too, until that last inning. I think this league and this game is such a great teacher. Soon as you take a play off you pay for it. You have that one mishap in the field or on the bases or in the box we’ve been paying for it.”
Thunder Bay scored in the first off Express starter. Robb Paller doubled to score Jordan Serena who led off the game with a single.
After a 1-2-3 first, Powers ran into trouble in the second. Tyler Hermann led off with a single but was erased on a caught stealing. After back-to-back walks Jack Zoellner singled to load the bases. Jeff Hendrix’ ringing double scored two, and Brady Burzynski grounded out to short to score the third run.
Thunder Bay responded in the bottom of the second with a run. Nick Studer doubled, Cory Kay bunted him to third, and Adam Collins collected the first of his three RBI on the night with a single.
Thunder Bay went ahead 4-3 in the home fourth. Eau Claire shortstop Peter Van Gansen booted Nick Studer’s grounder to open the frame, Kay blooped a single, and Collins bombed a double to the gap in right centre to score Studer and Kay.
Powers proceeded to put the game in cruise control, facing the minimum nine batters over the third through fifth innings. He struck out six of his nine batters in that stretch. In the sixth however, Eau Claire knotted the game at 4-4. Mike Porcaro opened with a walk, Daniel Salters scorched a double under Studer’s glove. Powers was nearly out of the jam, but Parcaro scored on a wild pitch. Powers struck out the last two batters he faced.
Powers parents were in the stands tonight. So to, was a Philadelphia Phillies scout.
“My slider was really good, fastball still doesn’t have the touch I want it to be at,” said Powers. “The nine Ks are nice, but the four runs in six innings is not good for me. Our team got us back in the game and I gave it right back. I was lucky to come out with game tied. The nine k’s does look good on paper. Got a lot of swings and misses on two strikes. At the same time I gave up too many runs. Three of my four walks those guys ended up scoring. I did some things well today but I have lots to work on.”
Ben Allison threw two innings of scoreless relief for Thunder Bay. Michael Daley pitched a scoreless ninth. Griffie threw a scoreless tenth before the four-run Eau Claire explosion in the eleventh.
Peter Hendron allowed four Thunder Bay runs in his five innings. Aron McRee threw three shutout innings for Eau Claire, while Taylor Duree allowed only Rolland’s homer in his three innings to get the win.
Offensively, Serena had two hits, Robb Paller had three, and Adam Collins had two hits and three RBI for Thunder Bay.
“I think we played a lot better today than we have, especially on the road,” said Hernandez. “The road trip was tough. We ‘re definitely going to keep our heads up and keep plugging away.”