The weather was miserable as was the result for the Thunder Bay Border Cats on Tuesday.
In a steady rain, the La Crosse Loggers broke open a tight game with a six-run rally in the seventh inning to defeat Thunder Bay 12-5 in Northwoods League baseball action at Port Arthur Stadium.
The first place Honkers climb to 8-7 in the Great Plains East division while Thunder Bay falls to 3-12, with five losses in a row.
“We’re really good at getting on top. We get leads. It’s just having that shutdown inning. It’s really key. And it starts on the mound,” said Cats manager Eric Vasquez. “We have to come in, throw strikes, throw early strikes. Our defence got a little scattered there, got a little wet. (La Crosse) is playing the same game. They’re on the same field. As much as we want to make excuses it starts on the mound. We didn’t command the zone early.
“I was pretty happy with some of the offense I saw,” added Vasquez. “We have to learn how to hold the lead.”
Thunder Bay had a 5-4 lead heading into the seventh.
Reliever DJ DePiero came on in the fifth and added four strikeouts to his season total before allowing a walk and three consecutive hits in the Loggers’ bat-around seventh. Austin Eggleston came on in relief, but tossed a wild pitch to send a run home on his first offering.
Three defensive errors contributed to the carnage. DePiero was charged with four earned runs while Eggleston was tagged with a lone run.
Marius Baldanis garnered the win for La Crosse in relief of Matt Kennedy. DePiero saw his record drop to 0-2.
Jakob Newton opened the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second and third, and scored easily on Ryne Edmondson’s chalk double down the left field line. Newton, led the team in steals with nine on the year with zero caught, but played his last game with the Border Cats as new players are making their way into the lineup.
TJ Byrd took Cats starter Trent Valentine deep to left field to tie it up in the top of the second inning.
Bryce Jorgenson scored on a botched double play ball to make it 2-1. Levi Usher slammed a two-run shot over right to give the Loggers their first lead. Usher’s two-run shot highlighted a three-run Logger third inning.
After a solo tally in the fourth, Jake Engel’s two-run double put the Cats ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the 6th. La Crosse sent 11 batters to the plate in the pivotal seventh. Usher opened up the frame with a triple. Brent Hawkins had a two-run single and Thunder Bay committed three errors to throw gas on the fire.
La Crosse would add two more in the ninth, banging out 15 hits to Thunder Bay’s eight. Usher had four hits for La Crosse and Cody Jefferis had three.
Thomas Grilli had a pair of singles while Newton and Engel reached based three times each.
Thunder Bay went nine-up, nine-down in the last three innings.
Catcher Joe Jimenez, making his Border Cats debut, gunned down two runners, making a tough catch at the screen, while collecting a single in his first at bat.
“Joe knows how to win. He has a national championship under his belt,” said Vasquez. “Two other guys are coming in tomorrow. It’s going to almost have to raise the bar. I have to play the best nine and we just have to win. Whoever is playing well and whoever is doing what they need to be doing that’s who is going to play.”
Nick Seamons struck out in his first plate appearance as a Border Cat. Catcher, utility player Conor Allard will like play today. Jimenez will get his second start behind the plate.
A pair of Joes — Joe Moran and Joey Hecht — will get the nods on the mound for Thunder Bay in today’s doubleheader. Jack Ferguson toes the rubber in 11:05 a.m. start for La Crosse.
The evening game starts at 7:05 p.m.