Mother Nature had the final say in this ballgame.
Fortunately for the Thunder Bay Border Cats, they were ahead by a run when the umpiring crew decided at midnight to call it a night, handing the home squad a 4-3 win over the visiting Rochester Honkers.
The game had already been delayed by a lengthy, though entertaining 92-minute rainfall that saw body surfing on the rain-slickened tarp, an impromptu hockey game with baseball bats, a mock deer hunt and in tribute to America’s national holiday, a re-enactment of the Revolutionary War.
In the end it was an error by Rochester’s Cole Lankford that proved to be the difference. The Honkers first baseman couldn’t hang onto a throw from reliever Dylan Nelson, which allowed Scott Donley to scamper home from third with what turned out to be the winning run.
It put the Border Cats up 4-2 at the time.
Thunder Bay got started in a hurry.
Omar Cotto hit a lead-off homerun to right to open the contest for the Cats, rattling Rochester starter Carl O’Neal.
O’Neal then walked Brett Kay, who two batters later scored on an Adam Landecker single, Thunder Bay taking a quick 2-0 lead.
But it was short-lived.
In the top of the second Matt Cooper walked Brandon DeFazio and then Jordan Parr made him pay for it, driving the ball deep to leftfield and over the wall, the two-run blast knotting the score at two apiece.
The two teams played a scoreless third before the rains began to fall.
That’s when the fun started, as each side tried to outdo the other while entertaining the other with hilarity, a virtual Whose Line is it Anyway on the ball-field that brought roars of laughter from those among the 905 paying fans who bothered to stick around.
Cooper was nowhere to be seen once play resumed, giving way to Mitch McQueen, who wound up being credited with the victory for three innings of two-hit, scoreless relief.
O’Neal, on the other hand, stuck around after the break and pitched two more innings without giving up a run, departing after five having giving up just four hits while striking out six.
Neither team was able to break through until the sixth, when Brett Kay slashed a double to left-centre. The speedster Cotto was running on the pitch and easily cruised home with the go-ahead run, which would grow by one before the inning was over.
But with Jason Kafka on in the eighth, things got a bit hairy.
Trevor Podratz drew a lead-off walk, then an error by Danny Bethea – who took over behind the plate after Cory Kay was plunked in the fourth – put Honkers on first and second. A Jordan Parr bunt advanced them 90 feet, then Kafka unleashed a wild pitch that brought Podratz into score, closing the Border Cats lead to one.
But Kafka settled down and forced infield fly balls to the next two hitters, putting an end to the rally.
The Cats had runners on first and third with one out in their half of the eighth when officials pulled the players off the field with lightning in the area.
After another lengthy delay, they made the decision to call the contest, giving the Cats a 3-2 win in the series and capping their first-half at 16-19.
Claw marks: Border Cats pitcher Jason Kafka is the brother of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mike Kafka … Attendance was 905 … The Cats head to Mankato for a pair against the first-half champion MoonDogs, then return to Thunder Bay for a series against Alexandria starting on Saturday.
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