By Lance Jones
The St. Cloud Rox did not just dump the pile, they amassed the whole tower load on the Thunder Bay Border Cats on Tuesday night. One massive inning led to a 17-3 win for the white-hot Rox in the first meeting with the Border Cats. The Rox pushed their streak to five wins in a row and are now winners of nine of their last ten.
Thunder Bay took an early lead. Conor Allard (Nevada-Reno) doubled off of Rox Starter RJ Martinez (Minot State) on the first pitch in the second inning. Jordan Larson (Northern Illinois) would knock him in to take a 1-0 lead.
Jake Engel (Dixie State) extended the lead with a two-out solo home run over the left field fence in the third inning.
Jeremiah Priddy (UC-Riverside) making his Border Cats debut on the mound lasted just 2 2/3. He was pulled with the bases loaded and two out. Lucas Reid (Sacramento City College) could not get Priddy out of the jam. Garett Delano (Brown University) slapped a single that counted Jack Kelly (Northwestern) and Zack Elliott (Minnesota). Brady Harlan (Oklahoma) would score on a wild pitch to give the Rox a 3-2 lead.
Allard crushed his first long ball of the year to tie the game for the Cats in the third. He was one of few bright spots for Thunder Bay on the night as he was a triple away from the cycle. Allard ended 3-for-4 with two runs and his tenth run batted in.
After the Border Cats tied it, all kinds of “Rox” would hit the Cats in the fourth. The home squad scored 14 runs in the inning on eight hits and no errors. In amidst the carnage wrought by St. Cloud was a grand slam by Kelly. Hance Smith (California-Berkeley) rounded out the 14 runs with a bases-clearing double. Within the frame, Elliott, Harlan and Barth would collect RBI singles. All together the Rox would come to the plate twice completely through the order and the Cats would change pitchers twice in the inning. That was all the scoring in the game.
With the loss the Cats dropped to 11-17, while the Rox are now half a game out of first in the Great Plains West.
The win went to Martinez (4-0) who struck out seven over six innings of work. He would allow three runs on a walk and six hits. Priddy (0-1) collected his first loss with two strikeouts and one walk with three hits and three runs.
Trent Valentine (Iona College) (1-0 4.07 ERA) will draw a tough assignment to try and stop this hot streak for the Cats on Wednesday night at Joe Faber in St. Cloud. The Rox will turn to Justin Simanek (Southeastern Louisiana) (0-0 1.08) making his third start of the season looking for a third straight two-game sweep. The Cats will continue the four-game road trip on Thursday in Duluth.
EXTRA INNINGS: Former Border Cats Shortstop Garrett Saunders signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Braves. Saunders hit .270 in 33 games for the Cats in 2018 and was running as one of the top three best fielding shortstops in the league.