Late Runs Prove Costly for Rafters In Loss to Madison

Wisconsin Rapids, WI- Brad Stroik (UW-Stevens Point) twirled six strong innings and issued just one run, but Tyler Willman (Western Illinois) gave up a home run to Drew Weeks and Mike Fitzgerald (Indiana State) and Kyle Ruchim (Northwestern) added back-to-back doubles as the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (29-35, 10-19) lost their fifth-straight one-run ballgame, 4-3, Monday night at Witter Field. The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Madison Mallards (38-18,17-14), while improving their record at Witter Field in 2013 to 3-1.
Stroik was the story Monday night as the senior-to-be struck out five of the first six batters faced and did not walk a batter until the sixth inning. The nine strikeouts issued by Stroik set a season high for a Rafters pitching, breaking Stroik’s previous high for strikeouts in a ballgame by two. Stroik, the Northwoods League leader in innings pitched, has now thrown six or more innings in his last five ballgames dating back to July 14.
The lone run issued by Stroik came in the second inning when former Rafter, Alex Bacon (North Florida), advanced to second base on a pair of errors by Rafters first baseman, Zack Belanger (Long Beach State). The error would prove costly as Jeff Zahn (Indiana State) followed with the games first extra base hit of the day on a line drive off the center wall to plate Bacon, giving the Mallards the lead, 1-0.
Wisconsin Rapids responded with two-runs of their own in the third inning after Riley Spetz (UW-Stevens Point) reached on a walk and Derek Peake moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, Mallards starter, Luke Staub (George Washinton), struggled fielding the ball and overthrew the first basemen, allowing Spetz to advance to third and Peake to travel to second base. Both runners eventually come around to score after Spetz plated the Rafters first run on an infield error by Erik Forgione and Peake came around after Robbie Coman (Virginia) reached on a fielders choice to give Wisconsin Rapids the lead, 2-1.
The game would remain at a deadlock until the eight inning when Rafters field manager, Jake Martin, removed reliever, Brent Mueller (UW-Stout), in the eight inning with one out in favor of reliable closer, Willman. Willman, after tossing four innings split betwee the previous three nights, gave up a one-out home run to Weeks to tie the game 2-2, and Fitzgerald and Ruchim each followed with doubles to give the Mallards the late lead, 3-2.
Madison tacked on another run in the ninth inning against Willman after Forgione opened the inning with an infield base hit and then advanced to second base on a miscue by Willman; the error was the first of the season charged against Willman. Forgione later scored on a wild pitch to extend the lead, 4-2.
After loading the bases in the ninth inning, the Rafters put the winning run on first base after Coman (Virginia) drew the third walk of the inning against Mallards closer, Sam Forkert (Marian). Belanger brought the game to within one after the Long Beach freshman lifted a fly ball to deep left field to plate Ragsdale home from third making the score 4-3, Michael Jurgella (St. Cloud State) jumped on a fist-pitch fastball and ended the game on a shallow fly ball to right field to give the Rafters their fifth-straight one-run loss, claiming the season series for the Mallards, six games to two.
Wisconsin Rapids has now not won back-to-back games since June 28-29th and has not won a one-run ballgame since a 4-3 win against the Battle Creek Bombers July 8th.
After concluding the nine-day eight-game home stand, the Rafters will venture out on their final road trip of the season when they visit the St. Cloud Rox and the Alexandria Blue Anchors for a pair of two-game series. Wisconsin Rapids is 1-3 this season against the north division, but holds a 15-16 record in road contest in road contests.
First pitch from Joe Faber Field is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., with John Kravetz scheduled to toe the rubber for Wisconsin Rapids. Fans can listen to tomorrow nights ballgame by tuning into WFHR 1320 AM.


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