Timber Rattlers Move into Tie at First After Win

GRAND CHUTE, WI – The Cedar Rapids Kernels have company at the top of the Midwest League’s Western Division for the first time since April 23.  The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers defeated the Peoria Chiefs 5-4 on Tuesday night at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium to join the Kernels atop the division with twenty games remaining in the first half.  Three Wisconsin relievers maintained a 5-4 lead for the final 5-1/3 innings to close out the game and the win.

Mike Antico used his speed to get the Chiefs (18-28) the first run of the game.  He drew a walk to start the game, stole second, and stole third.  Todd Lott knocked in Antico with a sacrifice fly.

A lead-off walk and another sacrifice fly led to Peoria’s second run of the game.  Aaron Antonini drew the walk to start the inning and was at third with one out.  Thomas Francisco drove in Antonini with a deep fly to the track in left-center.  Tyler Black made a fine running catch on the play, or it could have been a bigger inning for the Chiefs.

Wisconsin (29-17) got on the scoreboard with a two-out rally in the bottom of the third inning.  Ashton McGee doubled to extend the inning after Peoria starting pitcher Zane Mills retired the first two Rattlers of the frame.  Alex Hall drove in McGee with a single.

Then, the Timber Rattlers scored four times in the bottom of the fourth to take a 5-2 lead.  Tyler Black started the inning with a triple.  Joe Gray Jr. singled with one out to drive in Black to tie the game.  Tristan Peters followed with a double to put runners at second and third.  Micah Bello hit a grounder to short that was booted for an error and Gray scored to put the Rattlers up 3-2.

Ethan Murray followed with an RBI single to send Peters home.  Alex Hall beat out a potential inning-ending double play to allow Bello to score from third for the 5-2 advantage.

The Chiefs chipped away with two runs in the top of the fourth inning.  Antonini reached on a lead-off double.  Francisco Hernandez singled with one away to score Antonini.  Antico doubled with two outs to chase Hernandez home and Wisconsin starting pitcher Justin Jarvis from the game. 

Joey Matulovich was the first Wisconsin reliever to get into the game and he got the last out of the fourth.  Matulovich worked a perfect fifth and a perfect sixth inning to protect the one-run lead.  He needed just twenty pitches to pitch his 2-1/3 innings.

Kent Hasler was the next reliever for the Rattlers.  He worked a 1-2-3 seventh but ran into trouble in the eighth.

Lott and LJ Jones started the eighth inning with back-to-back singles and Antonini moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.  Then, Jacob Buchberger walked to load the bases.

Hasler got the second out when he struck out Hernandez and escaped the inning with the lead intact when Francisco was retired on a slow grounder to Murray at short.

Closer Cam Robinson, who escaped a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the ninth inning on Sunday at Cedar Rapids to pick up a save, had to deal with no drama in closing out Tuesday’s game.  Robinson worked a perfect ninth for his tenth save of the season and to finish a nearly immaculate month of May.

Robinson made ten appearances in May he allowed five hits, walked five, and struck out nineteen over sixteen scoreless innings.  He was also 7-for-7 in save opportunities.

The Kernels lost 6-1 at Lansing earlier in the day to open the door for the Rattlers.  Wisconsin and Cedar Rapids were tied for the division lead back on April 23 after the Rattlers swept a doubleheader from Quad Cities.  However, the Rattlers lost and the Kernels won on April 24 to put Cedar Rapids in first place, a position they maintained by themselves…until tonight.

Game two of the Wisconsin series is set for Wednesday afternoon at Neuroscience Group Field.  Russell Smith (1-3, 5.86) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers.  The Chiefs have named John Beller (2-0, 1.57) as their starter.  Game time is 12:10pm.  Cedar Rapids is at Lansing again on Wednesday night.

Wednesday is STEM Day!  Kids in attendance can learn about the many careers that are available in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with Mathnasium.  Fans aged 55 and older receive a box seat ticket, a Timber Rattlers seat cushion, a beverage, and a brat or hot dog for $25 courtesy of Aspire Senior Living.  This offer is not available online.  Fans must redeem the Silver Foxes Special in person at the Box Office or over the phone (920) 733-4152.

If you can’t make it out to Neuroscience Group Field for the game, there are several ways to follow the Timber Rattlers action.  The radio broadcast on AM1280, WNAM and internet audio is set to start with the pregame show at 11:50pm.  The game is also available on MiLB.tv.