Ryan Windham pitched seven shutout innings and Jakob Newton homered, singled, and stole a pair of bases as the Thunder Bay Border Cats defeated the Waterloo Bucks 4-1.
Newton had a hand in all four Thunder Bay runs as the last-place Border Cats (21-40 overall) try to end the stretch run of the season on a positive note.
A little smoke and mirrors didn’t hurt either as Cats’ reliever Austin Eggleston picked off two Bucks’ base runners at second base in the eighth inning to minimize damage to a lone run and then pitched a clean ninth for the save.
“We were just talking about it,” said Cats manager Eric Vasquez of Eggelston’s eighth inning Houdini act.
“How as a player do you have that happen to you and then do it again? That move (of Eggleston’s) is crazy. You see it, Eggleston’s pitched against Waterloo before, how do you not learn from it? Weird, very weird.”
According to Eggleston, he’s picked off 14 runners this year in the Northwoods League.
Newton continues to reach base. His streak stands at 34 games going back to June 16, according to the Border Cats.
Newton’s two-run first inning home run off Waterloo starter Peyton Fuller, scored Karsten Vasquez who was hit by a pitch, to give Thunder Bay a 2-0 lead.
Thunder Bay loaded the bases with none out in the third. Joe Jimenez singled, JJ Rollon walked and Karsten Vasquez had a bunt single with none out. Newton grounded into a double play to score Jimenez.
In the fifth the Cats loaded the bags again with none out. Vasquez popped out and Newton grounded into an inning-ending double play to end the threat.
Windham left after the seventh — shutout intact — having thrown 101 pitches. He leaves town with a 1.46 ERA on the year after switching roles from starting to relieving.
“It was a great way to end it,” said the six-foot-one, 180-pound righthander out of Creighton University. “It was just great to throw strikes. If I’m throwing strikes good things are going to happen. I figured that out in the spring. Finally found myself as a pitcher this summer. It was good.”
Windham struck out seven batters, scattered six hits and walked two.
Eggleston pitched an eventful eighth. Bennett Hostetler led off with a triple and Dylan Phillips singled him in to break the goose egg. Blake Wagenseller walked to put men on first and second. Eggleston picked off Phillips at second for the first out. Mike Nyisztor singled to put men at first and second.
But Eggleston picked off Wagenseller at second for the second out. Rollon was able to track down Alonzo Rubalcaba’s deep shot to end the frame.
Thunder Bay tacked on a final run in the eighth. Newton singled, stole two bags and scored on Jordan Larson’s two-out double for a 4-1 lead.
“Bomb felt good in the first inning,” said Newton. “I got down to two strikes. I was up there in battle mode. He (Peyton Fuller) threw me a curveball on the inner half. Just dropped my hands to it, got a nice piece of it.”
Waterloo turned two critical double plays early in the game, but made two base running mistakes that took them out of a comeback.
“When you have two guys picked off second base who aren’t stealing there’s usually a little monkey business involved,” said Bucks manager Casey Harms. “We out-hit them (Thunder Bay 9-8). Their guy did a good job of not giving us free bases. We gave up a couple of walks that they were able to capitalize on. It’s the difference in a 4-1 ballgame.”
Fuller threw six effective innings for Waterloo in a quality start, allowing three earned runs. Jack Dolak gave up an eighth inning run in relief.
Waterloo, first half Great Plains East Division winners, drop to 10-17 in the second half.
Tonight’s rematch against the Bucks will start at 7:35 p.m. due to post-game fireworks. Thunder Bay’s DJ DePiero starts for Thunder Bay, while Luke Mattson takes the hill for Waterloo.