By David Keech
August 11, 2017
Rockford— With a 5-3 win on Friday in Rockford (38-31, 21-14), Wisconsin Rapids (51-19, 24-10) clinched their fourth straight South Division title and tied the record for most wins in a season in league history.
The Rafters swept the Rivets for the second time this year to end the road portion of the regular season. Wisconsin Rapids finishes 5-3 against Rockford for the second consecutive season.
Rockford jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first after Brian Klein hit his fifth home run of the season against Wisconsin Rapids starter Jesse Slinger (8-1). In the top of the third, the Rafters nabbed a run back off Rivets starter Brad Littleton (3-4). Nick Anderson led off with a double, and scored on a Ryan Stekl RBI double to cut the deficit to one.
To lead off the fourth, Jake Guenther doubled for the Rafters. With two outs, Charlie McConnell drew a walk and stole second. Anderson flared a single to left to drive in two runs and give the Rafters their first lead of the game, 3-2.
In the fourth inning, Stekl led off with a single to jumpstart the Rafters offense. Alex Holderbach drove a single to put two men on, and Jake Guenther laced a sacrifice fly to push the Rafters lead to 4-2.
Slinger allowed two runs on five hits through six innings, and was relieved by Mason McReaken in the seventh. Zach Thomas drew a walk off McReaken to start the inning, while Kian O’Brian singled. With two outs, a Rafters error drove home Thomas to make it a one-run game. McReaken worked out of a bases loaded jam to preserve the 4-3 Rafters lead.
Seeking insurance, the Rafters offense went back to work in the top of the ninth. McConnell just missed a home run, driving one foul down the right field line. On the next pitch, he popped a base hit to left to start the inning. Anderson drew a walk before a double play ball, putting McConnell on third with two outs. Stekl singed home McConnell to give the Rafters a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Layne Henderson entered for the Rafters on the mound. After walking a batter with two outs, Henderson forced Anthony Forte to pop out and end the game. Henderson earned his 18th save in as many tries, tying the record for most saves in a single season in Rafters history. Garrett Schilling originally set the mark last year.
With his eighth win of the season, Slinger passes Jake Johnansmeir (2015) and John Jaeger (2016) for the most wins in a single season in Rafters history. Stekl finished with three hits and two runs batted in for the Rafters.
To open the final series of the regular season, the Rafters return home to host the Lakeshore Chinooks. First pitch on Saturday at Witter Field is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. Pregame coverage begins at 5:50 p.m. on AM 1320 WFHR and WFHR.com, the Rafters Radio Network.