The Milton Junction Pub Raptors are happy to take a breath this week after hyperventilating through two Rock River League nail-biters this past weekend.
The Raptors held on for a tense 4-3 win over Johnson Creek at Schilberg Park behind a sterling complete-game performance by T.J. Klawitter. Then the Raptors got the ride of their baseball lives all through a thrilling 13-12 loss at Hustisford Sunday in a game that saw the first-place Astros walk-off the Raptors with a run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Raptors will head to Ashippun Sunday for a makeup game against the Mudcats.
The Raptors led the Astros 2-0 through four innings and then trailed, 9-2 into the seventh before back-to-back homers by Kade Bohlman and Josh Shere capped a nine-run seventh inning that put the Raptors ahead, 11-9.
“Sunday was about as big a slugfest as you’ll see in the Rock River League,” Raptors manager Doug Welch said. “Both teams got caught up in the offensive explosion that bucked the trend by having some good hitting overcome good pitching. A bunch of really good pitchers in this league saw their ERAs explode in that one.”
The Raptors pounded a season-high 20 hits off Hustisford’s top two pitchers. To go with the homers by Bohlman and Shere, the Raptors smoked four doubles.
The Astros, meanwhile, hit Raptor starter Alex Marro for three homers during the pivotal fifth and sixth innings when Hustisford struck for six runs in building its 9-2 lead. The hard-throwing righty came into the game with a 2-0 record and 2.25 earned run average.
“It was pretty hot out there and I think the heat really affected all of the pitchers as the game went on,” Welch said. “It was the kind of day where you wished you had three or four fresh arms available.
“By the eighth inning everyone was just plain worn out.”
The Raptors left three runners aboard in the first two innings against Astros starter Andy Mueller. In the third, a one-out single by Shere, a walk to Luke Malmanger and a single by Dan Haueter loaded the bases. With two outs Klawitter delivered the big hit when he gapped a double to left-center to score Shere and Malmanger.
Marro, meanwhile, breezed through the first four innings, allowing just two singles and a walk as he struck out three. In the fifth inning, however, Hustisford’s No. 9 hitter, Sam Roesler connected for a two-run homer and the Astros took the lead with a third run plated by a Raptor error. In the sixth inning, Tanner Galezzi and Casey Simon each homered during a six-run inning to give the Astros a 9-2 lead. Sam McCann came in to get the final out of the inning in relief of Marro.
The Raptors responded with their most productive inning in recent memory. Bohlman led off the frame with his second hit of the game. Shere followed with a sharp double to left and Haueter drove in two with a booming double to left-center.
Austin Massey came on in relief for the Astros and was greeted by a McCann single. Andy Haney drove home Haueter with a single to left and Marro plated Haney with a blistering single that got under the glove of the left fielder, sending Marro to third.
Matt Fredricks delivered a hard line single to left to plate Marro and make it a 9-8 game. That’s when Bohlman stepped in a delivered a long drive up into the trees well beyond the left field fence to give the Raptors a lead.
Before the jubilant Raptors could get back into the dugout, Shere sent the next Massey offering far over the centerfield fence in the deepest part of the ballpark.
“That was an incredible moment,” Welch said. “We were talking after the game how most times when a team comes back like that, things always seem to fall one run short. But the hits by Freddy, Kade and Josh did more than just finish off the rally. They gave us a lead.”
But it was a lead the Raptors couldn’t hold. Back-to-back doubles to open the inning against McCann opened the door to a three-run inning and the Astros regained the lead.
The Raptors tied the game at 12-12 in the top of the eighth when McCann doubled and scored on a single by Klawitter. Malmanger retired the Astros in the eighth but Hustisford scratched the winning run in the bottom of the ninth when a hit batter, wild pitch, and sacrifice put a runner on third with one out. The Raptors issued two intentional walks before Simon delivered the winning run with a deep fly ball to right.
“It was an exhausting game and a pretty bitter one to swallow,” Welch said. “But we had to be proud of our effort and, to be honest, it was a gas.”
Bohlman, Shere and Haney each had three hits for the Raptors. Haueter, McCann, Klawitter, Marro and Fredricks each had two.
On Friday night, the Raptors got a badly-needed win behind Klawitter’s complete game. The righty allowed three runs on eight hits and walked three. He struck out six. The Raptors plated three runs in the third inning on doubles by Jason Curtis and JT Smithback, an RBI single by Fredricks and a bases-loaded walk to Haueter.
The Raptors had several opportunities to add on but left the bases loaded in three of the first six innings. The Raptors tacked on a needed run in the seventh when Klawitter’s sacrifice fly scored Haueter. Trailing 4-2 into the top of the ninth, the Pioneers scored a run on a sacrifice fly but could not get the tying run on base against Klawitter.
Smithback had two of the Raptors six hits. Smithback and Curtis each doubled and Shere walked four times.