The Rafters smashed their way to victory Saturday night, beating Eau Claire 9-6 to give 2011 Rafters MVP Nestor Bautista (SO, Ball State Univ.) his first victory of the season in front of 1,479 at Witter Field in Wisconsin Rapids.
The Express came in with a league-best 1.27 ERA and .165 opponents batting average Saturday, allowing only five earned runs and 16 hits in their first 27 innings. In just eight frames, the Rafters plated nine runs, eight earned, collected 12 hits, and hit the second and third homers off of the Eau Claire staff this season.
After Bautista allowed a run in the top of the first on an RBI by Josh Sheffert, first baseman Josh Cyr (JR, Univ. of North Alabama) clubbed his first home run in the bottom half, smashing a 1-0 pitch into the gusting wind out to left center field. The bomb, Cyr's first, put up three runs for the Rafters, and they would not surrender the lead the rest of the night.
Three more in the third off an RBI double for Austin Neary (FR, Western Carolina Univ.) and Alex Bacon's third two-run homer of the summer gave the Rafters a commanding 6-2 lead.
Admitting to some early nerves, starting pitcher Nestor Bautista allowed a run in the first two innings but danced out of trouble the rest of the night. In six innings of work, the left-hander scattered nine hits and stranded seven Express runners. Bautista induced a groundball from Nick Addison, who was 3-for-3 at that point, for the 1-3 putout with two on to end to the 6th, and the Manhattan, NY native pumped his fist as he jogged off the diamond to finish his night.
Former Lincoln High School star Jake Long (JR, UW-Milwaukee) struggled in his Rafters debut, going just two thirds of an inning, allowing four baserunners on two hits and two hit batsmen, and allowed a run, but the Rafters pen was able to hold off the Express. The four-arm effort of Long, 2011 Northwoods League All-Star Skyler Debilzen (JR, UW-La Crosse), Mark Kowalke (FR, UW-La Crosse), who also made his debut, and Seth Fuller (FR, Western Illinois Univ.) allowed three runs in the final three innings, but it was enough to allow Eau Claire a late comeback for a third consecutive night. Insurance runs in the sixth and eighth helped Wisconsin Rapids to hold on for the 9-6 win.
Courtesy: Wisconsin Rapids Rafters