THUNDER BAY – The Border Cats bats stayed silent at all the wrong times.
The Northwoods League team, playing its second home game of the 2023 campaign, managed only three hits against the visiting Duluth Huskies on Wednesday night, twice putting multiple runners in scoring position only to hit into inning-ending double plays that snuffed out both rally attempts.
Chances were few and far between from then on as the Huskies pitching dominated, setting aside 15 of the final 16 Thunder Bay batters in a contest that saw the two teams separated by just one run most of the night.
A bases-loaded walk in the top of the ninth provided insurance and the Huskies pulled out a 3-1 win to climb back to .500 in front of 624 fans at Port Arthur Stadium.
Much of the damage was self-inflicted, thanks to a four-error, one wild-pitch Border Cats third, the miscues leading to a pair of Duluth runs.
“Tonight, obviously defensively we were not where we needed to be to win that ballgame. But we had the right group of guys to go out there tomorrow and correct our mistakes, and I think we’ll do exactly that,” said Thunder Bay 1B Tyler Kehoe, who went hitless in four plate appearances against a quartet of Huskies pitchers.
Border Cats manager J.M. Kelly, however, didn’t think the errors played a big role in the defeat, not as much as the continued lack of hitting, his team hitting a woeful .190 after eight outings, last in the Northwoods League.
“We gave up two runs in the (third) inning. It wasn’t the difference. We left one run out there in the first inning,” Kelly said.
“We just didn’t do a very good job offensively. We’re not built to go out there and score 10 or 15 runs. We’re built to play defence and we’re built to score five runs a game. Had we not left those runs out there, we would have (won).”
Border Cats starter Caden Fiveash didn’t allow a run through two innings, but got little help from his D in the third.
An error by third baseman Trey Lewis allowed Huskies leadoff hitter Ethan Cole to reach to open the third. It was a sign of things to come.
With one out, right-fielder Dalton Mullins muffed a tricky flyball off the bat of Carson Applegate, a throwing error allowing the Huskies batter to set up shop on second.
Brandon Compton hit a sacrifice fly to left that scored Cole. Another Lewis error put runners on the corner and Joshua Duarte came home on a Fiveash wild pitch.
The Border Cats got one back quickly in the bottom of the third against Duluth starter Jacob Merithew, Mullins and Johnstone drawing walks that led to Lewis gaining a measure of redemption at the plate thanks to an RBI single. Tyler Griggs followed with a walk to load the bases, but catcher Cole Ketzner hit into a 4-6-3 double play to kill the threat, Thunder Bay trailing 2-1.
Mullins lined out into a double play to end the fourth, Peter Fusek caught too far off the second-base bag.
The score stayed that way until the ninth, when Tanner Carter, who inherited a runner on second, surrendered a single to Evan Borst and walked Carson Applegate to load the bases and then Duarte walked to score Michael Hallquist from third.
Fiveash, who allowed two runs on three hits in five innings, took the loss, his record now 1-1. Hamiltonian Jacob Gajic tossed three innings of one-hit relief. Yamane Taiga, who took over in the fifth for Merithew, was awarded the win, his first decision of the season.
The Cats and Huskies will play the third game of their four-game set on Thursday night, game time scheduled for 6:35.