The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers trailed 8-6 heading into the top of the ninth inning against the Dayton Dragons at Day Air Ballpark on Tuesday night in game one of the six-game series. The Rattlers rallied with four consecutive hits to score three runs and held on for dear life in the bottom of the inning for the 9-8 victory on a night with seventeen runs, thirty hits, and thirteen walks.
Jay Allen II started the bottom of the first with a bloop double to right. He took third on a grounder to the right side of the infield. Edwin Arroyo drove in Allen with a single and the Dragons (9-10 second half, 42-43 overall) were up 1-0.
Dayton added to their lead in the bottom of the third. They had the bases loaded with one out. Austin Hendrick ripped a line drive to the gap in left-center. Two runs scored and a third attempted to score. However, Robert Moore threw a strike to the plate on the relay from short left-center on to get an out at the plate. Rattlers starting pitcher Stiven Cruz got the final out of the inning to keep the Rattlers within three.
Wisconsin (10-9, 36-47) sent nine men to the plate in the top of the fourth to take a 5-3 lead. Ernesto Martínez and Hendry Mendez started the inning with singles. Ben Metzinger walked to load the bases. Darrien Miller and Je’Von Ward had back-to-back RBI singles. Moore tied the game with an RBI grounder. Matt Wood put the Rattlers in front with a two-out, two-run double.
The Dragons would rally with a run in the fourth and two runs in the fifth. Cade Hunter started the fourth frame with a double against Cruz. Jack Rogers singled to drive in Hunter. In the fifth, reliever Michele Vassalotti gave up a lead-off triple and walked the next two batters to load the bases. Vassalotti got Matt Nelson to ground into a 4-6-3 double play for two outs, but the tying run scored on the play. The next two batters reached on a walk and a hit batsman to reload the bases.
Reliever Brannon Jordan took over and walked Justice Thompson on a 3-2 pitch to force in the go-ahead run for Dayton before getting the final out of the inning.
The Rattlers had another rally in them as Ward doubled to start the sixth. A sacrifice bunt moved Ward to third. Moore singled to get Ward home and the score was tied 6-6. Wood followed with a single to put runners on the corners, but Wisconsin couldn’t take the lead in the inning.
That would cost them as the Dragons had runners on first and second with one out in the bottom of the sixth. Hendrick hit a deep line drive to right and almost everyone in the ballpark thought it was a three-run home. The loud horn that blows on every Dragon home run was set off and the runners started to trot. However, base umpire Garret Griffin ruled that the ball didn’t clear the yellow line and Hendrick had to settle for a single and an RBI as the runner from first only made it to third base. Replays showed that Griffin made the correct call.
Mat Nelson would give the Dragons an insurance run with a sacrifice fly a few moments later and Dayton was up 8-6.
The Timber Rattlers had two runners on with one out in both the seventh and eighth innings but couldn’t close the deal. That would not be the case in the top of the ninth.
But, first, the Rattlers needed to get out of the bottom of the eighth inning. Justin King retired the first two batters before walking Nelson. Tyler Callihan singled to right and Nelson tried to go from first to third on the play. Mendez threw a one-hop laser to third and Metzinger dropped the gag on Nelson for the final out of the eighth.
Miller started the rally with a long home run to right with one out in the top of the ninth inning. There was no doubt it was a home run and there was no celebratory horn either.
Ward kept the rally going with a double for his fourth hit of the game. Jose Acosta was next, and he was due in the game as he had left the bases loaded in the second and fourth and stranded two runners in the seventh. Acosta delivered this time with a line drive down the line in left for a game-tying, RBI double that sent Ward across the plate.
Moore followed with a single up the middle and Acosta beat the throw to the plate to put the Rattlers up 9-8.
Tanner Shears came on for the bottom of the ninth and gave up a leadoff single to Hunter. Wood recorded the first out with a diving catch of a foul popup near the screen behind home plate. However, Hunter alertly tagged and took second on the play to get the tying run into scoring position. Shears got the second out with a strikeout, but Allen kept the game alive when he was hit by a pitch to put the winning run on first and bring Tyler Callahan to the plate.
Shears got Callahan to ground out to Acosta at second base and Wisconsin secured the victory.
The Rattlers collected a season-high eighteen hits in the game. Ward led the way with four hits and three runs scored with Moore adding three hits and three RBI. Wisconsin hitters went 7-for-21 with runners in scoring position.
This was the second time this season Wisconsin has rallied for a win when trailing after eight innings. They are 2-41 in that situation. Dayton’s bullpen was charged with its twenty-second blown save of the season.
Game two of the series is Wednesday night at Day Air Ballpark. Cameron Wagoner (1-11, 7.21) is scheduled to be the starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers. Dayton has named Chris McElvain (0-0, 3.75) as their starter. Game time is 6:05pm CDT.