Rattlers Win it in the Ninth

MIDLAND, MI – The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers almost let one get away on Tuesday night against the Great Lakes Loons at Dow Diamond.  The Loons rallied from a 6-2 deficit with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game only to see Wisconsin score two runs with two outs in the top of the ninth inning for an 8-6 win in a game that was crucial to both team’s playoff chances.

The first five Rattlers to bat in the game reached base with three of them scoring for an early 3-0 lead.  Tyler Black started the inning with a single with Ethan Murray drawing a walk and Tristan Peters reaching on a fielder’s choice to load the bases.  Wes Clarke knocked in Black with a single to left and Joe Gray Jr. followed with a walk for a 2-0 advantage.  That was all for Great Lakes starting pitcher Ben Casparius.

Reliever Robbie Peto took over and got Zavier Warren to ground into a 6-4-3 double play that scored the third run of the inning.  Peto got the final out with no more damage.

Great Lakes (33-25) loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first against Wisconsin starting pitcher Antoine Kelly.  Eddys Leonard struck out but reached on a dropped third strike.  Jorbit Vivas followed with a single.  Then, Alex De Jesus knocked in Leonard with a single.  The next batters singled to load the bases before Kelly escaped on a force play at the plate and back-to-back strikeouts.

Imanol Vargas got the Loons a little closer in the bottom of the second with a lead-off home run.

Peto had two outs and a runner at first in the top of the fourth inning and it appeared he would get the Loons to the plate with the deficit still at one run.  Then, Ashton McGee singled and Jose Acosta drew a walk to load the bases.  Black unloaded them when he lined an 0-2 pitch to the gap in right-center for a three-run triple and Wisconsin (34-23) was up 6-2.

Kelly worked through five innings and didn’t allow another hit after the home run by Vargas.  The lefty walked one and struck out ten as he turned the lead over to the bullpen.

However, the first four Loons to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning against Joey Matulovich reached base.  A single, a double, and a walk loaded the bases.  Then, Matulovich walked Ryan January to force in a run and that was the end of the night for Matulovich with the Rattlers up 6-3.

James Meeker was called into the game and he threw a wild pitch to let in the second run.  Meeker got Vargas to ground out to first for an out, but another run scored, and the Rattlers lead was down to a single run.

Leonard tied the game with a two-out single to right to cap the four-run uprising for the Loons.

The game remained tied until the ninth inning.

Micah Bello started the top of the ninth with a single against Cole Percival.  Bello was still at first base with two outs after Percival struck out the next two batters.  That brought Tyler Black to the plate and after a visit from the Loons pitching coach to the mound, Percival was very careful with Black and wound up issuing a four-pitch walk.

Murray took a close 1-2 pitch for a ball to even the count.  He lined the next pitch back through the middle for a single and Bello raced home with the go-ahead run.  Later in the inning, Clarke was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in an insurance run for an 8-6 lead.

Cam Robinson closed out the game with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth for his fourteenth save of the season.

Both Wisconsin and Great Lakes entered Tuesday’s action in second place, 3-1/2 games behind the leaders in their respective divisions, the West for Wisconsin and the East for Great Lakes.  Meanwhile, the East-leading Dayton Dragons and the West-leading Cedar Rapids Kernels were starting a six-game series at Perfect Game Field in Iowa on Tuesday night.  The Dragons held on for a 6-5 win over the Kernels.

The results on Tuesday mean that the Timber Rattlers have moved to within 2-1/2 games of the Kernels in the West while the Loons have fallen 4-1/2 games behind the Dragons.  Wisconsin, Great Lakes, and Cedar Rapids all have eight games remaining in the first half.  Dayton has nine games left in the half.

Game two of the Wisconsin/Great Lakes series is Wednesday night at Dow Diamond.  Ryne Moore (2-3, 6.85) is scheduled as the starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers.  Carlos Duran is set to make his 2022 debut with the Loons as their starting pitcher.  Game time is 6:05pm CDT.  The radio broadcast on AM1280, WNAM and internet audio is set to start with the pregame show at 5:45pm.  The game is also available to subscribers of MiLB.tv.