With fireworks starting to burst over the vista at C.O. Brown Stadium in Battle Creek, the Wisconsin Woodchucks (15-20) closed the first half of the 2017 Northwoods League season with a bang, responding perfectly from Monday night’s heartbreaker with a wire-to-wire 6-3 victory Tuesday night over the Battle Creek Bombers (20-15). Unlike on Monday, there were no late-game dramatics Tuesday as the Woodchucks bullpen locked down to shut down the Bombers over the final four innings to preserve the win.
Battle Creek’s Dakota Edwards threw six innings of shutout ball in his first start of the season, but he barely made it through one inning Tuesday. He walked Trey Dawson and Tristan Clarke, both on four pitches, to kick off the game. Three wild pitches later, Dawson had crossed the plate and Clarke got to second to put the Woodchucks ahead. With two outs, Hunter Coleman laced a double down the left-field line to score Clarke and make it 2-0 after one.
The two would combine again in the third. Clarke led off with a five-pitch walk and Brylie Ware singled him to third before Coleman’s base knock brought him home to make it 3-0 Wisconsin.
Walks had hurt Chucks starter Austin Lambright in his first two starts of the year, and they cost him in the third inning Tuesday. Winston Welch led off with a walk and Battle Creek loaded the bases with only one out. Nick Walker hit an RBI single and then Lambright walked Justin Felix to force home another run to make it 3-2 after three.
It wouldn’t be close for long. Zach Helsel had only allowed one earned run in his first 13.1 innings, but the Woodchucks got him for three in the fifth inning alone. Ware singled and Coleman walked, and Yeager Taylor scored Ware with a single. A wild pitch put both runners in scoring position, and Jackson Owens delivered a single to left to score them both and make it 6-2 Woodchucks.
The Bombers pulled one back in the bottom half against Lambright when Felix drove in his second run of the day. The wouldn’t score again. Erik Gutierrez came in for the sixth and worked around a two-out double to retire the side, all on strikeouts. He wouldn’t allow another baserunner in his three scoreless innings, and he nearly tripled his season strikeout total by tallying five in his best outing of the year.
The Woodchucks couldn’t score more against Helsel or Colton Bradley, and that set the stage for Orsen Josephina. Working with a three-run cushion, the league’s leader in saves got a flyout and two punchouts to record save number 11 and ice the 6-3 Woodchucks win.
Wisconsin’s five-game road trip concludes Wednesday night in Fond du Lac. The Woodchucks will open the second half with their fifth match of the year against the Dock Spiders, with first pitch at 6:35 PM.