The Thunder Bay Border Cats clawed back from a three-run deficit to tie, but couldn’t rebound from another three-run deficit in the 10th inning in a 9-7 loss to the Eau Claire Express on Wednesday at Port Arthur Stadium.
Matt Bottcher’s grounder scooted under the glove of Jake Engel for two Eau Claire runs in the extra frame, and Conor Allard was gunned down at third in the Thunder Bay half to diffuse a promising rally.
Thomas Grilli’s RBI single scored Andrew Shebloski, but with one out, Joe Jimenez grounded out and Nate Soriano struck out to send the Cats to their seventh loss against a lone second-half win.
Brannon Jordan collected the win for the Express, who climb to 6-2 in the second half. Nick Herold registered a save. Aaron Kern took the tough luck loss for Thunder Bay.
“Good game for a fan, not so much for a coach,” said winning manager Dale Varsho. “Good thing for the extra innings scoring three, otherwise we would have lost. Pretty fortunate.”
Jimenez crafted a nine-pitch walk out of Jordan to start the ninth-inning rally. With one out, Nick Seamons and Engel singled to load the bags. Anthony Galati’s RBI groundout produced one run, and Ryne Edmondson’s two-run single tied the game at 6-apiece going into the tenth.
“They came back against a pretty good pitcher,” said Varsho. “Brannon Jordan’s one of our best. They hit him hard, he got behind in counts. (Thunder Bay) did a great job.”
Thunder Bay went through five pitchers to get to Kern in the 10th inning. Two hits and an intentional walk for Eau Claire set the stage for Engel’s error on a hard shot by Bottcher.
After eight appearances in late relief Ryan Windham made his maiden voyage as a starter for Thunder Bay. Spencer Myers singled in the first and eventually scored on a pair of wild pitches as the Express took a 1-0 lead, putting a dent in Windham’s zero ERA.
Windham allowed two more runs in the second inning on three hits, a walk and a passed ball. Down three-zip, Conor Allard slammed a two-out triple, and Jakob Newton, Joe Jimenez and Nate Soriano belted consecutive singles for a two-spot in the second inning as the Cats shaved the margin to one.
Shebloski’s sixth-inning single knotted the score at three-all.
Eau Claire scored three in the seventh against a pair of Border Cat relievers. A Connor Laspina double, a single and two walks ended Jordan Jackson’s night. A pair of sac flies against Thunder Bay’s DJ DePiero put Eau Claire up 6-3.
Cue the Thunder Bay rally in the ninth.
“For me, coach DeWitt, (and suspended coach Kyle Hunt) this is our life, this is our livelihood,” said Cats manager Eric Vasquez.
“We have a lot of passion for it but they (our players) do as well,” The physical mistake that happens with Engel, man, that happens. The mental mistake for Allard, that’s unacceptable. We have first and second, nobody out. We were in a pretty good situation. It’s nice to put up 13 hits. We had some really good at bats. . . . We’re taking a loss but we’re seeing some good improvement. Hopefully this improvement just keeps going with it.”
Eau Claire’s Myers popped his shoulder in an outfield collision in the second inning. His replacement, Connor Laspina, was 2-2 with a walk. Myers had a walk and single.
Attendance was 708.
Thunder Bay hosts the Duluth Huskies tonight. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.