It’s called winning in spite of yourself.
Every team needs to pull a game like that off once in a while.
The Thunder Bay Border Cats made five errors Monday night to close out the first half, surrendered three unearned runs, but escaped with a 5-4 extra-inning triumph over the Duluth Huskies when Adam Collins blasted a one-out, ground-rule double to centre in the bottom of the 10th.
The Border Cats, coming off a doubleheader sweep at the hands of the Mankato MoonDogs, wrapped up first-half play at 14-21, but won eight of 12 down the stretch.
Collins, in his second year in Thunder Bay, said he was trying not to think too much at the plate, with the game on the line.
“I wanted to stay within my approach the whole game that I had,” said Collins, who finished 3-for-5 on the night.
“I’ve been putting good swings on the ball and just stuck to that and got a good pitch to drive and hit it hard.”
The sloppy play has to stop, however, said manager Johnny Hernandez, who thinks his team has a chance to contend for a second-half title and a playoff berth if they can put the miscues behind them.
“Things we shouldn’t be doing, we’re still doing,” said Hernandez. “Things that need to be addressed will be and I think we’ll be a lot better in the second half.”
Though disappointed that the Cats couldn’t hold first a 3-1 lead and later a 4-3 advantage, Hernandez said the 10th-inning is a momentum boost going forward.
Then he challenged his relief corps to step up their game.
“If we can’t close games out late in the game, it’s going to be another lopsided second half. We need to figure out the back side of the bullpen. They’ve got to come in there and throw strikes and put the ball in play.”
Up a run in the ninth, Hernandez turned to Devin McLemore to close things out. A hit-or-miss right-hander, McLemore has been shaky at times this season. He promptly rang up an 0-2 count on Duluth’s Trent Chatterton, but then plunked him in the helmet.
McLemore settled in with back-to-back strikeouts, but with two outs, Michael Tinsley blasted a triple to the wall in left-centre, tying the game 4-4.
An inning earlier reliever Nathan Aultman, who took over from starter Charles Thielmann after a strong seven-inning, nine-hit outing, had two down and a runner on first, but an Alex Greene single brought the tying run home, after a Collins miscue pulled the Huskies to within a run.
Luckily the Cats got things rolling early.
Nick Studer drew a bases-loaded walk to open the scoring in the first, a Robb Paller sacrifice fly doubling the lead one batter later.
Thielmann appeared to have his shutout intact through five, but a two-out error by Tyler Blankmeyer at short kept the inning alive and a second error by leftfielder Tyler Rolland produced a run, Eric Peterson racing first to home on the play.
But Thunder Bay struck back quickly, loading the bases in their half of the inning. Jordan Serena scampered home on Studer double play to push the lead back to two.
The team has come a long way, Thielmann said, and a win like this might be just the incentive they need to start the second half strong.
“At the beginning of the year everybody had to get used to playing with each other, but now, I think the second half is looking really good.”
Cat tracks: Hernandez says he expects injured infielder Kyle Hann back next week … The Cats played in front of the largest Port Arthur Stadium crowd of the season, 1,332 eagerly awaiting the post-game fireworks show .. Jordan Serena was 4-for-5 on the night with two runs and has raised his average from .089 to .275. He's riding an eight-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in 11 straight .. The Border Cats wore special Canada Day jerseys which were auctioned off during the game, raising more than $2,100 for charity.
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