Robb Paller is developing a flare for late-inning dramatics.
The Thunder Bay Border Cats right-fielder blasted an eighth-inning grand slam on Monday night, delivering a come-from-behind, 11-9 win over the visiting Waterloo Bucks, a game twice delayed by heavy rains.
It was Paller’s second homerun of the night, the other a three-run shot that capped a six-run second. It was also the second game-winning grand slam of 2014 for Paller, who equalled Tyler Duplantis’ year-old single-season club record with his ninth home run of the year.
“I knew I was getting a fastball with that count and was trying not to do too much with it,” the lefty slugger said, only about 16 of the 662 fans still in attendance for his heroics.
“It was over the top, straight and he gave me a pitch to hit and I was ready for it.”
The he, in this case, was Waterloo right-hander Tim Shannon, brought in specifically to face Paller, who finished with seven RBI on the night, also a Border Cats record.
“He got some pitches to hit and he didn’t miss them,” said a succinct Border Cats manager Johnny Hernandez, five hours or so after starter Nathan Aultman delivered the game’s first pitch.
It was a contest of highs and lows for the Cats in snapping a two-year, 14-game losing streak at the hand of the playoff-hungry Bucks, who slipped to 14-10 and into a second-half tie with first-half champion Willmar in the Northwoods League’s North Division standings.
The six-run second took more than an hour from start to finish, the rains soaking Port Arthur Stadium after Tyler Rolland’s lead-off double.
It was 47 minutes before play resumed, Tyler Patterson quickly evening the score with a single off Waterloo starter Derek Burkamper.
Jordan Serena drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Cats (5-17) their first lead of the night, followed by a Jacob Robson sacrifice fly that made it 3-1, setting the stage for Paller.
Waterloo fought back with three of their own in the fourth, a Jon McAllister two-run triple off Aultman leading the charge. They tied it an inning later on a Blake Berger suicide squeeze that plated David Kerian, who had singled, stole second and went to third on a Christian Correa throwing error.
With the skies threatening to open again, the Border Cats went ahead again in the sixth when Ty Blankmeyer drove a single to right off Aaron Myers.
The Bucks drew a pair of walks to start the seventh when a second downpour began, forcing the tarp back on the field a second time.
An hour later the game resumed with Ben Allison (W, 4-5) back on the mound for Thunder Bay. He promptly walked the first batter he faced and the Bucks tied it when Mikal Hill grounded into a double play. Then they took the lead on a Berger single, adding another in the eighth to increase their advantage to 9-7.
Patterson and Blankmeyer opened the bottom of the eighth with singles then Jordan Serena reached on an error by pitcher JD Moore (L, 1-3) to load the bases. Two batters later Paller stepped up and did his thing.
“Something we’ve been struggling with all year is being too up and down,” said Paller, well aware he’d etched his name into the Border Cats’ record book.
“I think coming out of the rain delay we were a little flat. They jumped on top and we battled back. We’ve been doing that all year.”
Devin McLemore pitched the ninth to earn his third save.
Cat tracks: The Cats and Bucks wrap up their four-game series on Tuesday afternoon. Game time is 1:35 p.m. … No Thunder Bay players were named Monday to represent the North Division at the NWL’s upcoming Big League Showcase.
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