THUNDER BAY -- Losing a baseball game by double digits hurts.
It hurts even more when the wide margin is compounded by an injury to a key member of the squad.
The Thunder Bay Border Cats felt the pain from two sources on Friday, dropping a 15-4 decision to the Duluth Huskies while losing outfielder Carter McEachern to injury during their Northwoods League tilt at Port Arthur Stadium.
The Thunder Bay native was drilled by a high and tight fastball from Huskies starter Kevin Peters during his second inning at-bat. He entered the contest with a .444 batting average through the club’s first three games, driving in a pair of runs.
“It’s definitely frustrating especially with such a good start I was having to the season,” McEachern said after the game, with a cast around his right wrist.
“A hometown kid playing at home, I’m sure guys grow up thinking about playing at home. Finally it happened for him and it was a tough break,” said Border Cats manager Johnny Hernandez.
McEachern was noticeably in pain as he walked down the baseline towards first but remained in the game. It became apparent to him when he was in the field that the pitch had done damage.
“I wasn’t too sure (about the severity) when I had gotten hit. It was when I went out in the field and tried to throw a baseball, I couldn’t really move my arm,” McEachern said.
He was taken out of the game at the start of the fifth inning and was taken to hospital where it was discovered there was a break. McEachern said it is still too soon to know the full extent of the injury.
Losing McEachern is a bitter aftertaste to what had already been a rather unpleasant evening at the ballpark.
Border Cats starter Ben Allison was cruising along through the first five innings of his debut. Other than a hiccough in the first inning that allowed the game’s opening run, he was in control, only surrendering three hits and did not issue any free passes.
The game was tied 1-1 heading into the sixth when things quickly went sour for Allison, as he allowed four hits and three walks to the first seven batters in the frame as he quickly lost control.
Hernandez admitted he stretched his hurler too far.
“I think I left him out there a little too long,” he said. “A lot of these guys are younger guys and coming from programs where they’re only throwing three or four innings so part of it is to use these first few games to build them up a little bit, that way when we really need them they can go six or seven innings.”
Four runs had crossed in the inning before Allison was pulled. Wes Helsabeck came on in relief with the bases loaded and one out. Helsabeck struck out his first batter, and looked to get out of the jam in the next at-bat but a close 2-2 pitch was called a ball. That led to Huskies shortstop Max Bartlett lining a two-run single to expand the lead.
Duluth starter Peters was solid for his entire outing, with the southpaw only allowing three hits and a lone run during his six innings of work.
The Huskies made it a laugher in the eighth, putting up eight in the frame. Two pitchers, Gunner Kay and Tyler Lequire, were not able to record an out.
Thunder Bay plated three runs in the bottom half of the ninth.
The win was the first of the season for Duluth as both teams now sport an identical 1-3 mark.
Claw marks: Attendance was announced at 644…Cats outfielder Cory Kay made his season debut, going 1-4 with a run scored. This is his third season in Thunder Bay…His brother Gunner made his Border Cats debut in the eighth, giving up three runs on two walks and a plunked batter…The Cats hit the road for a two-game weekend series against the Alexandria Blue Anchors before returning home to take on the Rochester Honkers on Monday.
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