Walkoff Grand Slam Dooms Rattlers

SOUTH BEND, IN – The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and South Bend Cubs went down to the wire on Thursday night at Four Winds Field.  In the end, it was a two-out, bases-loaded home run by Cubs outfielder Owen Caissie that beat the Timber Rattlers 8-6.

The Timber Rattlers, who were shutout on Wednesday night, wasted no time in getting on the scoreboard on Thursday night.  Darrien Miller was hit by a pitch with one out.  Tristan Peters tripled to right-center with two outs and Miller scored.  The throw to third to get Peters was wild and raced for the plate to put the Rattlers (45-32 overall, 9-3 second half) up 2-0.

South Bend (44-34, 10-2) scored a run in the bottom of the first inning.  Yeison Santana walked and stole second with one out.  He stole third with two outs.  Caleb Knight singled on a 3-1 pitch to score Santana.

The Cubs tied the game in the second inning.  BJ Murray hit an RBI single to center to score the tying run and put runners on the corners with one out.  Antoine Kelly, the Wisconsin starting pitcher, bounced back to strikeout the next two batters he faced to end the frame.

Casey Opitz put South Bend in front in the bottom of the third on a weak grounder up the first baseline with the bases loaded.  Kelly’s only play was first base as the go-ahead run scored.

Wisconsin loaded the bases with one out against Cubs reliever Michael McAvene in the top of the fifth, but a strikeout and a check swing roller in front of the plate got the final two outs and kept South Bend in the lead.

In the sixth, Wisconsin scored twice on Yovanny Cruz.  Ashton McGee and Ethan Murray singled with one out.  Arbert Cipion lined an 0-2 pitch to left-center for a single to score McGee.  A bobble in the outfield allowed Murray to score all the way from first and the Rattlers were up 4-3.

Joe Gray Jr hammered the first pitch he saw from Cruz in the top of the seventh for a two-run homer to give the Rattlers a 6-3 lead.  The home run was Gray’s second of the series and eleventh of the season.

James Meeker took over for Kelly out of the Wisconsin bullpen and pitched three scoreless innings, allowed one hit, and struck out five to turn that lead over to the bullpen.

Robby Baker relieved Meeker to start the bottom of the seventh.  Santana singled with one out.  Yohendrick Pinango lined the next pitch to left-center and the ball was just out of the reach of a diving Gray.  Santana scored, but Pinango was out trying stretch his double into a triple.  Murray, the shortstop, made a strong relay throw to get Pinango by a lot.

Gray made an impact on the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with his arm.  Caissie drew a walk to start inning.  Luis Verdugo singled to right-center and Caissie tried to go to third on the hit.  Gray fielded the ball on one hop and fired a strike to third and Caissie was out by wide margin.  Baker retired the next two batters to maintain the 6-4 lead.

Taylor Floyd, who just joined the Timber Rattlers earlier in the day from Biloxi, entered the game in the bottom of the ninth.  Floyd walked the lead-off batter before he retired the next two batters.  Pinango singled up the middle to bring Knight to the plate with the winning run.  Floyd missed with the first pitch to Knight but came back with two quick strikes.  However, the next three pitches missed the zone and Knight refused to chase.  The walk loaded the bases and brought Caissie to the plate.

Caissie hit a 1-1 pitch from Floyd over the wall in right for the walkoff grand slam and the Cubs second straight win over the Rattlers in the series.

Game four of the series is Friday night at Four Winds Field.  Russell Smith (1-4, 5.03) is the scheduled starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers.  DJ Herz (1-1, 1.99) is set to start for the Cubs.  Game time is 6:05pm CDT.  The radio broadcast is on AM1280, WNAM and internet audio starting with the pregame show at 5:45pm.  This game is also available to MiLB.tv subscribers.