Wisconsin Rapids - Just 24 hours removed from the heartbreak of a one run loss, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters inflicted that same heartbreak on the Waterloo Bucks, sealing a 3-2 victory Thursday night with dominant late inning relief.
With his team leading by the slimmest of margins at 3-2, Michael Russo got his first save opportunity of the year and did not disappoint. The hard throwing righty struck out all three batters he faced in the ninth, all swinging, to seal the Rafters win. Russo's lights out ninth secured Jack Larsen's first win after Larsen worked a scoreless eighth following a strong start from Paul Schwendel.
Trailing 1-0 early, three straight hits from the Rafters in the second tied the game up. Josh Cyr doubled runners to second and third before Brooks Braga singled on the infield in his first Rafters at-bat to get his new club on the board. Cyr again flexed his extra base muscle in the sixth. Still tied at one, the Rafters first baseman launched a ball deep over the lights and into the Rapids night spotting his team a 2-1 advantage.
Schwendel allowed just a single run on five hits over his first six innings of work. With one out in the seventh, however, the righty ran into a bit of trouble. Schwendel sandwiched two walks around a single to load the bases and punch his ticket out of the game leading 2-1. Larsen came on and allowed the tying run to score on a sac fly, before recording the final out. Schwendel ended the night after six and one thirds innings, six hits, two runs and a season high eight strike-outs.
Now tied again, the Rafters bounced right back in their half of the seventh. Bobby Martin worked a one out walk to begin the threat. Then with two outs, and Martin in motion, Justin Jirschele lofted a double to left. Martin flew around third base and, when the left-fielder mishandled the ball, scored easily to give the Rafters their final 3-2 lead.
The win is the Rafters 20th of the season and ties their win total from last season with nine games still to play. The Rafters are now also 5-1 against the Bucks this summer.
Courtesy: Wisconsin Rapids Rafters