Rockford, Ill.- Call it a nail-biter. Call it a thriller. Call it what you will, but the baseball game Thursday night in Rockford was a good one that came down to the wire. Led by a perfect offensive day by their new leadoff man, the Wisconsin Woodchucks (18-26; 3-6) got out to a solid lead, but three runs in the final four innings made it a game. It took a gutsy performance from their all-star closer to lift the Woodchucks to an 8-7 win over the Rockford Rivets (22-21; 5-4) Thursday night in Illinois.
Andreas Papageorge looked solid overall in his first start of the year, but the Rivets punished him for his few mistakes. Hunter Feduccia got the game going with a solo shot in the first, his sixth homer in July, but Wisconsin responded in the shortly after against Brad Littleton.
With two outs in the second, Aaron Soucy drew a walk and Ivan Nunez singled him home. Then in the third, the Chucks loaded the bases with two away. Soucy hit a chopper that bounced off Littleton’s glove and went through the legs of second baseman Brian Klein. The play was scored an error, and the Chucks got two men across home to take a 3-1 lead. They weren’t done there. James Davison, in his third Woodchucks at-bat, bashed a triple off the right-field wall to score two more runs and make it 5-1 Wisconsin.
In the fourth, Brylie Ware hit a single and Logan Foster followed with a double to put them both in scoring position. Tristan Clarke hit into a fielder’s choice to score Ware and force out Foster, but the Chucks took a commanding 6-1 lead. It wouldn’t be that big for too long. In the bottom half, Klein and JC DeMuri both singled. Papageorge got two outs, but Patrick Loeffler mashed a three-run homer to right to get Rockford within 6-4.
Wisconsin responded against reliever George Manikas in the sixth when Davison led off with a walk and Nunez was hit by a pitch. Stevie Mangrum then walked to load the bases once again. Ware singled to score Davison and Foster hit a sac fly to score Nunez and the 8-4 lead was restored.
But then Rockford started chipping away. Zach Rheams doubled home a run off Beau Zeihen in the sixth and Feduccia tripled home a run off Jackson Owens in the seventh. With a two-run lead, the Woodchucks turned it over to their lethal back end of the bullpen to close it out.
Lenny Gwizdala tossed a perfect eighth on just seven pitches, but Orsen Josephina’s ninth wouldn’t go quite as smoothly. He got one quick out but then Loeffler singled and Trevor Paradoski placed a ball just barely down the left-field line to put two men in scoring position. Ryan Hutchinson hit a pop-up in foul territory on the first base side and Hunter Coleman made a sensational diving catch in the Chucks bullpen for the second out. Feduccia then drew a walk to load the bases and, after a long at-bat Zach Watson was purportedly hit by a pitch to force home Loeffler and make it a one-run game. Up stepped Klein, and Josephina locked it down, striking him out on five pitches for lucky save number 13 and an 8-7 Woodchucks win.
The victory snapped Wisconsin’s small losing streak, and the Woodchucks will look to sweep Rockford for the first time this season Friday night at 6:35 PM. Payton Coffman will start for Wisconsin; Brandon Nowak will oppose.