By Lance Jones
The Thunder Bay Border Cats (0-5, 14-26) saw another game swing away from them as they are the only team in the Northwoods League without a second-half win. A grand slam was the difference as the Rochester Honkers (3-2, 21-19) held on to defeat the Cats 5-2 on Sunday afternoon. With the loss, Thunder Bay has seen their losing stretch run to seven games. This is the second time the Border Cats have seen a seven-game losing streak, matching their opening seven to start the season. The game was there for the taking as each team had seven hits, however, the Cats left 12 men on base compared to the Honkers 6. The tying run came to the plate for Thunder Bay in the eighth. And the levelling run was left aboard in the Border Cat ninth.
Thunder Bay led 1-0 after their first at-bat as they got after Honkers Starter Dwayne Marshall (Maryland-Eastern Shore). Jake Engel (Dixie State) swung a baseball into the left-field corner for a stand up double. Anthony Galati (Sacramento City College) picked up a single, moving Engel over. An incomplete double play allowed Engel to score giving Ryne Edmondson (Houston Baptist) his team-leading 23rd run batted in.
Cats hurler Austin Breazeale (GateWay CC-AZ) held onto the lead until the second. A double and single mimicked the Border Cats setup from the first inning. Andy Armstrong (Oregon State) slapped a hard shot to the hot corner that Thomas Grilli (Panola College-TX) knocked down, but had no play on. This allowed A.J. Miller (Oregon), hitter of the double, to count. Breazeale would hit Nathan Webb (UC-Riverside) with a pitch to load the bases, but he would get the third out to make sure it remained even.
Both pitchers had pretty calm seas through the next couple of frames until the fifth. The Cats got a free pass from Marshall to Jakob Newton (Florida Tech). Newton would immediately steal second. With Engel at the plate, Newton would be taken out by Armstrong, the shortstop. A ground ball that Armstrong played to third to get the lead runner. That managed to take most of the sting out of the inning. Marshall would work out of a second walk in the inning, leaving two aboard, without any damage in his final frame of work.
Breazeale would not get the same result. After getting the first out, a Tristan Peterson single, a Ryan Wrobleski (Dallas Baptist) walk and an error by Conor Allard (Nevada-Reno), making his first appearance at second base for a while, loaded the bases. Ryan Ober (Oregon State) would make them all count as he took an 0-1 fastball and mashed his fourth of the season over the left-field fence.
DJ DePiero (Bradley University) would pitch the rest of the game. He’d face nine hitters from the sixth to the eighth and retire them all with three strikeouts.
The Cats would get one back in the eighth off of Marc Bisogno (Fordham University). A walk to Edmondson and a frozen rope from Allard put runners on second and third with one out. Pap on second and third with one out. Papí Hernandez (Nova Southeastern) snapped a hot potato past the third baseman’s glove on a hop to plate Edmondson. The Cats would leave two aboard in the inning as Bisogno got a ground ball to end the frame.
Bisogno would put himself in more hot water in the ninth. Newton walked again. Then Bisogno got two quick outs. However, with the Cats down to their last strike, Galati would be pegged in the thigh by a runaway spinner. Edmondson with a scrappy effort at the plate, fouling off three pitches and fighting to keep the game alive, would do so. A bobbled ground ball and Edmondson just beat the throw to first and the pitcher covering the bag. The bases loaded and tying run at first, Honkers Manager Thomas Walker turned to Keon Taylor (Georgetown College) and he would square away Allard on a dirty slider that Allard could not connect on.
The win would go to Marshall (2-3) as he allowed all of three hits and three walks over five innings. He whiffed a season-high nine Border Cats and allowed one run for the victory. The all-star closer Taylor registered his sixth save and third in a row in as many outings.
Breazeale (2-2) took the loss as he allowed seven hits and walked two. He allowed all five runs, four earned and struck out two.
The Border Cats are running short of lives now. It’s still early in the second half campaign but Thunder Bay is the only team with a donut in the win column. It can change Monday night, as Thunder Bay looks to Tyler Hansen (Texas Southern) (0-3 5.28 ERA) to also change the donut in his win column as well. He pitched well enough for a win in his last appearance against the Honkers, back in June, allowing just two runs on a season-low four hits. Ryan Dorney (Saint Martins) (2-4 4.61), the fourth year Honkers pitcher, who is already 1-1 against Thunder Bay and has a decision in every start this season will look to snap a two-game losing streak for himself on the mound.