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Sweeney's ninth-inning blast leads Huskies past Border Cats

Thunder Bay loses consecutive games for the first time in 2024.

THUNDER BAY — For the first time this season, the Thunder Bay Border Cats have dropped back-to-back games.

For the second day in a row, the bullpen couldn’t lock things down in the ninth.

With two out and one aboard, M.J. Sweeney drilled a ball over the wall in left, the Duluth Huskies (8-6) second long-ball of the day proving to be the difference in a 6-4 win for the American side.

Sweeney only got to the plate after shortstop Greg LaChance got tied up on a hard-hit ball that glance off his glove, allowing Ethan Cole to reach, keeping the inning alive. Earlier in the inning, southpaw reliever Garfield Johns had escaped potential trouble with a brilliant pick-off move that erased Duluth’s first two batters from the basepaths.

"They had a really good left-handed pitcher on the mound. I wasn't trying to do too much, just (looking) at the middle of the field. He gave me a fastball inside and I just tried to put my hands inside it and took it over the wall," the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Sweeney said. 

It’s unfortunate, said Cats manager J.M. Kelly, his team having given up five home runs in their past four home games, part of a lengthy six-game set with the Huskies. 

“It was just a tough day. Two pitches, two swings is the difference,” Kelly said, the Huskies other home run a second-inning grand slam off the bat of No. 9 hitter Brady Sullivan, back in the Duluth lineup after sitting most of Sunday’s game.

Border Cats second baseman Ty Brooks, who led his team offensively with three hits in four trips to the plate, including a game-tying two-run single in the bottom of the eighth, said it was frustrating to battle back from a 4-0 deficit, only to lose it in the ninth again.

“You always want to win. We played hard all day, had some tough breaks early and came back to tie it up late,” said Brooks, who now has hits in three straight appearances.

“We just couldn’t quite get it done today.”

It didn’t help the Border Cats cause that Huskies starter Cale Haugen was ahead in the count most of the afternoon, the matinee affair allowing 2,853 mostly school-aged children to take in the Monday’s game at Port Arthur Stadium.

Haugen went seven innings and was able to work his way out of several jams, stranding runners in scoring position in the six of the innings he pitched.

Thunder Bay starter Andrew Hardin was also effective, Sullivan’s blast his biggest mistake of the day.
He went five innings, giving up four runs on five hit and two walks, striking out six.

An Alex Urlaub RBI double and an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth, courtesy of a two-base error by Sullivan in right and a Zane Skansi sacrifice fly, were the only blemishes on Haugen’s pitching line.

The Border Cats made two errors, and two other plays that could have been errors were ruled hits, including LaChance’s chance in the ninth.

Thunder Bay has made 23 errors this season, which is a little concerning, Kelly said.

“At the same time, these guys are really good players, so they’ll come back, and they’ll get out here and work and get it fixed,” Kelly said.

The Huskies, who lead the Northwoods League with 31 errors, also had three miscues on the day.

Charlie Dohemann survived an error in the ninth, retiring three of the four batters he faced to earn the save, his first of the season.

The Border Cats (10-4) get a two-day break before hitting the road on Thursday for the start of a two-game set against Rochester.

They’ll be back home and Saturday and Sunday to host the Wausau Woodchucks.

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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