THUNDER BAY – To say the second half has been a grind for the Thunder Bay Border Cat might be the biggest understatement in baseball.
The last-place Cats pitching woes continued on Sunday, victimized for nine runs on 13 hits by the visiting Eau Claire Express as the home side fell 9-3, dropping its fourth in a row to fall to 2-14 in second half play.
Cole Cabrera had the biggest bat of them all for the Express, blasting a pair of home runs to pace the Eau Claire offence, a three-run shot in the fourth off southpaw starter Mark Anderson and a solo effort leading off the eighth off newly installed reliever Brendan Cindric.
The power surge was a little unexpected, said Cole, who came into Sunday’s game with zero in 2019 and has yet to hit one in two seasons with the Cal Poly Mustangs.
“I’ve been trying to get it out. I have some balls I’ve squared up, but I never really hit home runs and I’m just trying to … cash in the runs,” said Cabrera, who added a fifth RBI in the ninth on a fielder’s choice with runners on first and third.
“The unthinkable is hitting two in a game. I’ll definitely remember this for a while.”
His first long ball turned the tide in a game that saw the Express jump out to a 2-0 lead in the first, only to have the Cats respond with two of their own in the bottom half of the inning, courtesy of an Alex Hernandez single that scored Anthony Galati and Conor Allard.
“I was just trying to get (Brandon) Dieter and Sam (Kohnle) in. I was looking for something good over the plate and tried to put a good swing on it. Thankfully it just ran out of here,” said Cabrera, a native of Hawaii.
It was just a pitch that got away, said Anderson, making his final start of the season for the struggling Border Cats.
“That changes the complexity of the game, in my opinion. If you go back to that inning and that doesn’t happen, we throw up a zero, the rest of the game ends up a whole lot different,” said Anderson, who left with one out in the fifth, having given up six runs on six hits and seven walks, earning his first loss in three decisions this summer.
Down 6-2, the Cats clawed to within three in the fifth.
Ryne Edmondson singled, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and completed the final 90 feet around the base paths on a passed ball, catcher Vincent Martinez unable to hang onto Kuster Kinlecheenie’s pitch.
Kinlecheenie took over from starter Nick Herold with one out in the fourth, the Cats looking to break open a 2-2 with runners on first and second and one out. He made easy work of Galati, inducing an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
He’d go the rest of the way for the Express, allowing just two hits and three walks, the Winlow, Ariz. native improving to 2-0.
Eau Claire (11-5), took a temporary half-game lead over the Duluth Huskies in the Great Plains East Division, the Huskies playing later on Sunday night.
The Express scored twice on Cindric in the eighth and closed out the scoring in the ninth, newcomer Triston Lundgren on the mound for Thunder Bay.
Cat tracks: Attendance was 815 … The Cats have lost a number of players in recent days, including Canadian Thomas Grilli, home-run derby participant Jake Engel, outfielder Nick Seamons, outfielder Andrew Shebloski and utility player Bryce Jorgenson … The two teams meet again on Monday at Port Arthur Stadium ... Thunder Bay has given up 94 runs in its past 10 games, winning just once.