Scott Donley isn’t even supposed to be in Thunder Bay.
Signed to a temporary contract after sitting out last season because of an inter-university transfer, a month into the season he’s the only Thunder Bay Border Cat to play in all 32 games and the designated hitter isn’t going anywhere.
Donley was the hero for the Cats on Canada Day afternoon, his sixth-inning bases-clearing double to right-centre the key blow in Thunder Bay’s 7-4 win at Port Arthur Stadium over the visiting Rochester Honkers, the club’s third straight triumph.
It was as good an at bat as the Cats have seen all season from anyone in their lineup, working the count full against Honkers reliever Elliott Engele and fouling off a pair of tough pitches before driving the ball deep into the gap.
“I got down two strikes and I had to keep battling. You know you’ve got to put the ball in play with two outs and I just had to do that,” Donley said.
“He ended up leaving the ball over the plate a little bit more and I just took advantage of that.”
It put the Cats (15-17) up 6-3 at the time, after the teams had traded runs for three straight sets of at bats, starting with Patrick Gallagher’s solo shot to right that gave the Cats lefty starter Blake Fonfara a 1-0 lead after three.
Donley, who has eight hits in his last 18 at bats and eight RBI in his last five outings, is hitting .320 with two long-balls and a team-leading 18 driven in.
Manager Andy Judkins admitted he wasn’t sure what he had when Donley arrived and had no plans to keep the Crown Point, Ind. native on the roster all season.
But in baseball, change happens in a hurry, and there’s nothing like a hot bat to effect it.
“The funny thing about that is that when his coach called, he said, ‘You’re going to find a way to keep him,’” Judkins said.
“And he did it and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
He couldn’t ask for a better example on and off the field, Judkins added.
“Scott’s a great kid. He plays hard, works hard and we didn’t really have anyone who could hit in the three-hole for awhile. But he stepped in, did a great job and hasn’t let go of it. When he can hit a couple of doubles the other way like that in the middle of the lineup, it’s good to see,” Judkins said. “Especially in a big spot like that.”
Cole Lankford got the Honkers (13-19) on the board in the fourth, singling home Jordan Parr, who tripled off Fonfara to start the inning.
Kyle Lombardo’s grounder to short put the Cats back on top in their half of the inning, but Dakota Smith’s flyball was enough to score Chad Wallach an inning later to even the score once again. The Cats went up 3-2 when Patrick Gallagher singled with Donley on second, then got caught in a rundown, allowing Donley to scamper home.
Two hits and an error, with Chad Richie relieving Fonfara in the sixth, led to the Honkers third run of the night.
Danny Bethea scored on a Justin Higley seventh-inning single to make it 7-3, with Lankford scoring the game’s final run on a Chad Wallach sac fly in the eighth.
Jordan McCoy faced three batters in the ninth, allowing a base-runner on Thunder Bay’s fourth error of the afternoon, earning his seventh save of the season with a ground-ball double play.
Richie, who gave up six hits in 2.2 innings, improving to 2-1. Honkers starter Kevin Johnson drew the loss and fell to 0-1.
Claw marks: Cats shortstop Brett Kay was out of the lineup for just the third time this season. Replacement Kyle Lombardo had errors in each of the first two innings, though neither one came back to haunt Thunder Bay … Attendance was 825 … Adam Landecker was 1-for2 with a pair of walks and a hit by pitch … The Cats and Honkers play again on Monday, the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m. … Northwoods League president Dick Radatz Jr. was in the press box overseeing the game. Radatz said he’s looking to expand the circuit by a couple of teams next year and that could bring about a limited return of inter-divisional play. The two divisions don’t play one another under the current schedule format.
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