If only baseball was a two-out game.
The Thunder Bay Border Cats on Friday night excelled setting aside a couple of batters without any damage. It was the third out that proved more elusive.
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters scored seven of their 11 runs with two-out, ending the Cats (7-21) modest two-game winning streak with a 12-5 win in front of 1,181 fans at Port Arthur Stadium.
The Rafters (11-18) punished Cats starter Gunnar Kay for nine runs on 10 hits before he mercifully got the early hook from manager Johnny Hernandez, forced to turn to an already overworked bullpen to try to shut down the opposition the rest of the way.
Wisconsin Rapids’ offence was in full throttle, with eight of nine starters collecting hits and driving in runs in a game that meant little with both teams languishing at or near the bottom of the standings in their respective Northwoods League divisions.
“It’s never over,” said Rafters manager Ruben Noriega. “I don’t know how many times we had two outs and nobody on. But one hit gets it going and we just keep going.”
Take the fourth.
Already comfortable with a 6-1 lead, Kay recorded a pair of outs – albeit loading the bases ahead of the second one.
The second appeared to be a tailor-made double play, second baseman Ty Blankmeyer drifting back to make a nice catch on a Ricky Ramirez pop fly.
Rafters runner Michael Jurgella was running on the play and was already almost at second when the catch was made. He turned and hightailed it back to first, but Blankmeyer, with plenty of time to make the play, rushed the throw.
It went wide pulling Sal Taormina off the bag and the inning continued.
Catcher Tyler Servais, son of long-time major league backstop Scott Servais, doubled to score a pair, ending Kay’s night.
Outfielder William Elliott completed the Rafters second four-run inning with a two-run single off Cats reliever Tyler McKee.
“They just hit the ball hard and you’ve got to get ahead in pitching that was not the case,” said all-star catcher Christian Correa, who rolled off a 3-for-5, two-RBI night for the Border Cats and is the lone Thunder Bay player above the .300 mark, finishing at .302.
Down 11-1 in the seventh, the Border Cats bats finally came to life and Thunder Bay scored a two-out rally of their own.
Blankmeyer singled to start things off, the first of five straight hits the Cats would get off Wisconsin Rapids starter Jake Cage, who did give up 13 hits, including at least one to each Thunder Bay starter, in eight innings of work.
Robb Paller added two more to his team-leading 40 RBI total heading into Friday’s Port Arthur Stadium contest, singling home Jordan Serena and Jacob Robson and the Cats headed to the eighth trailing 11-5.
But while Taormina and Kyle Comer reached to start the eighth, Cage retired three straight to end the threat.
Jeremy Kravertz, who had given up nine runs in just 3.1 innings so far this season, set down the side in order to close it out in the ninth.
Cat tracks: The Border Cats have just two home games left in 2014. They'll face Wisconsin next Friday and Saturday night ... Thunder Bay was only out-hit 16-13, but issued seven free passes and hit a pair of batters. The Rafters didn't walk any Border Cats batters ... Reliever Nathan Aultman went five strong to close it out for Thunder Bay, giving up just two runs on five hits.
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