Luis Verdugo went 3-for-3, drove in five runs, and helped the South Bend Cubs build an 8-0 lead over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium on Friday night. The Rattlers charged back on a pair of homers but fell short by a score of 9-6 in front of a huge crowd.
The Cubs (59-47 overall, 25-15 second half) took a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Verdugo cracked a two-run home run to left with one out against Wisconsin starter Zach Mort. Pablo Aliendo reached on a single with two outs. Then, BJ Murray doubled off the glove of Reidy Mercado in left to knock in Aliendo. Kevin Made capped the inning with an RBI single to left.
The Rattlers (56-49, 20-20) had something going in their half of the first. Darrien Miller was hit by a pitch and Jackson Chourio drew a walk to start the frame. South Bend starter Kohl Franklin stranded both runners as he retired the next three batters in the first.
South Bend added four runs in the top of the fourth inning. Verdugo, who had singled in the second inning, doubled to drive in the first two runs in the inning. Aliendo had an RBI double, Mort walked the next batter to load the bases and that was it for the Wisconsin starter.
Joey Matulovich entered the game and walked Made on four straight pitches before striking out the next two batters to end the inning with South Bend leading 8-0.
Franklin didn’t allow a hit through 3-1/3 innings, but the Rattlers put a few base runners on in the fourth. Jeferson Quero reached on a walk and Joe Gray Jr was hit by a pitch. Ben Metzinger got the Timber Rattlers on the board with the team’s first hit off Franklin. Metzinger, the 7th round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2022 draft, homered off the pole in left field for his first professional home run.
The Timber Rattlers pulled to within four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning with an RBI single by Zavier Warren.
Verdugo struck again in the top of the seventh inning. Pete Crow-Armstrong doubled and stole third to start the inning. Verdugo, who finished a triple shy of the cycle, collected his fifth RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly to knock in Crow-Armstrong and the Cubs were up 9-4.
Darrien Miller brought the crowd to life with a long, two-run home run to right in the bottom of the seventh, but 9-6 was as close as the Rattlers would get.
The attendance of 6,573 was the first home crowd at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium to go over 6,000 since August 18, 2018. It was the first home attendance to go over 6,500 since June 4, 2016.
Game five of the series is Saturday night. Brady Schanuel (0-1, 4.06) has been named the starting pitcher for Wisconsin. Schanuel will make his first professional start after 99 relief appearances to start his pro career. The Cubs will counter with Richard Gallardo (0-1, 5.23) as their starting pitcher. Game time is 6:40pm.