THUNDER BAY – The Border Cats started Sunday’s game against the La Crosse Loggers with three straight hits.
They’d only get two more before extra innings began.
But Anthony Galati got the hit that mattered most, singling home the winning run in the bottom of the 12th inning to deliver a home-stand closing 7-6 triumph that improved their first-half record to 11-16.
Twice the Loggers took the lead in extra innings – which under Northwoods League rules begin with a runner placed on second – only to have the Border Cats respond with a run of their own to climb back to even ground
Galati, who entered play hitting just .208 on the season, smacked a frozen rope to right-centre on the first pitch he saw from La Crosse reliever Lalo Porras, scoring Ryne Edmondson from second base for the winning run.
“It was great, and definitely picking up our pitching and catcher felt good. They got a little mixed up and the ball got past them in the top of the 12th and they scored that run,” said Galtati, who was doused with an ice bath during his post-game interview after a 2-for-5 afternoon.
“It was good to finally do something for the team. We’ve been grinding. We didn’t start out hot, but the Cats are hot right now and it felt super good to contribute.”
Big hits like Sunday’s game-winner are precisely why manager Eric Vasquez brought Galati to Thunder Bay in the first place.
“He’s a guy that is just boom, boom, boom. He’s going to hit for us,” Vasquez said. “The last three games I think he’s bumped his average 30 or 40 points. It was nice, because it was his birthday weekend, so it’s kind of good for him too.”
Galati turned 21 on Saturday.
The Border Cats (11-16) gave southpaw starter Tyler Hansen a two-run cushion in the first, Jake Engel singling home the first run, Nick Seamons scoring the second on a Conor Allard groundout.
Hansen no-hit the Loggers through three innings, finally allowing a hit in the fourth when J.T. Schwartz singled up the middle.
Thunder Bay doubled its lead in the fifth, Seamons beating out a potential inning-ending double play that plated Nate Soriano. He later scored on an Engel double off Loggers starter Matt Kennedy, who pitched seven innings of five-hit ball before exiting to start the eighth.
La Crosse finally got to Hansen in the sixth.
Jacob English led off with a single and appeared to be stranded, but Brady Allen slammed a shot to right that Jakob Newton bobbled off the fence.
Allen wound up on third and scored on Ryan Holgate’s RBI single.
Allen tied the game an inning later, singling off reliever Brendan Cindric to score Cody Jefferis and Trey Torain, the latter walking to end Hansen’s night.
The two teams traded runs in the 10th, Allen crossing the plate for the Loggers, Nick Seamons counting for the Cats.
La Crosse had a shot to go ahead in the 11th, Levi Usher taking third on a wild pitch. But Jefferis flew out to left and Ryne Edmondson gunned him down at the plate to end the inning.
Jefferis scored the go-ahead run in the 12th with Aaron Kern on the mound. Placed on second, he took third on a Schwartz sacrifice and scored on a passed ball credited to Border Cats catcher Joe Jimenez.
In the bottom half of the inning Seamons was sacrificed to third by Engel, then scored on a Jack Filby wild pitch.
The Cats are off Monday and return home to Port Arthur Stadium next Saturday.
Cat tracks: Former Border Cats infielder Garrett Saunders has signed a pro contract with the Atlanta Braves organization, where he will play with Danville in the Appalachian League.