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Huskies edge Border Cats in wild contest

Game boasted six lead changes and 21 runs.

THUNDER BAY – If there’s such a thing as a barnburner in baseball, the Thunder Bay Border Cats and Duluth Huskies set the standard on Sunday afternoon.

The Huskies, desperate not to fall any further back of the first-place Border Cats in the Great Plains East standings, scrapped their way to an improbable 11-10 win, eking out the one-run victory thanks to a throwing error by Thunder Bay’s Ty Brooks that allowed the go-ahead run to cross the plate in the top of the ninth.

Not that the lead was completely safe – not by any means.

The scrappy Border Cats put runners on the corner with no outs in the bottom of the ninth, but a suicide squeeze call, with back-up catcher Duncan Matthews at the dish, backfired.

The ball bounced to pitcher Joshua Butler, who fired home to a waiting Ethan Cole.

Cole grabbed the ball and swung his glove into the slide path of Border Cats runner Ty Hamilton, who was dead to right at the plate.

Butler, with runners on first and second, got Lucas Terilli to ground out, advancing the runners to second and third, and ended the game, more than four hours after PWHL star Michela Cava threw out the ceremonial first pitch, when Ty Brooks hit a sinking line drive to left that was stabbed by Duluth outfielder Cardell Thibodeaux.

Thunder Bay manager J.M. Kelly said it was a gamble calling the squeeze, and unfortunately Matthew hit the ball right to the pitcher.

“If you get that guy in you don’t hit into a double play and it basically becomes a sac bunt. That run scores and you get that guy to second with one out and you stay out of the double play,” Kelly said, his team losing for just the third time in 13 outings this season.

It wasn’t pretty on either side of the diamond, he added.

“They tried to hand us the game five or six times. We tried to hand them the game five or six times. I think neither one of us really wanted to win that game. It’s kind of what it seemed like. We kind of set the game back about 100 years right there,” Kelly said.

Duluth put up 14 hits on the day, walked 10 times, were hit four times, and wound up leaving an astounding 17 men on base. The Cats were good for eight hits, eight walk, were also hit four times, and stranded 11.

Thunder Bay jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings, scoring twice in the first and second.

Starter Cole Poirrier made it through the first two frames unscathed, but ran into trouble in the second and was chased in the third after the Huskies loaded the bases with no outs and Tibodeaux singled and M.J. Sweeney hit into a run-scoring double play to cut the Border Cats lead to 4-2. They tagged reliever Carter Wall for a pair in the second, tying the game, then took a 5-4 lead in the fifth off Trevor Baugh, catcher Cardel Dick lining a 1-2 pitch to centre. He was later thrown out trying to steal home to end the inning.

Trailing 6-5 in the seventh, with Duluth starter Coin Carney out of the game after the sixth, Thunder Bay retook the lead against reliever Caden Kraztz. Terilli reached on an error, stole second, took third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch. Zane Skansi then walked with the bases loaded to bring in the go-ahead run.

With runners on first and second to start the eighth, Kelly turned to Peter Fusek to get them out of the jam. Instead Dick launched the third pitch he saw off the scoreboard in left, and the Huskies were up 9-7. They added another run on an M.J. Sweeney single.

Once again the Cats responded. Hamilton, walked, Braydon Kuriger and Tray Fikes were both plunked, loading the bases with no outs.

Matthew Foley came on and walked Terilli to make it 10-8, then, after striking out Brooks and Cole Ketzner, threw another wild pitch that scored Kuriger from third. Liam Thompson took over on the mound and two pitches in launched another wild pitch that scored Skansi, evening the game 10-10.

“We definitely did our part offensively. Pitching doesn’t show up every day, and that’s all right. We believe in our staff, for sure. We’re going to get it done, more often than not,” Hamilton said. “We rally like no other team in this league.”

The Cats and Huskies, who have played five straight against each other, wrap up their home-and-home-and-home series on Monday morning at Port Arthur Stadium. First pitch is 11:05 a.m.

Leith Dunick

About the Author: Leith Dunick

A proud Nova Scotian who has called Thunder Bay home since 2002, Leith is Dougall Media's director of news, but still likes to tell your stories too. Wants his Expos back and to see Neil Young at least one more time. Twitter: @LeithDunick
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