Cats' season ends in heartbreak
Oh man, that was a tough ending.
That was what Wildcat baseball coach Ryan Bishop was thinking after Wisconsin Rapids scored three runs in the top of the seventh to stun the Cats, 3-2, in a WIAA Division 1 Regional Final Thursday, May 31, at First National Bank of River Falls Field.
The Wildcats led 2-0 thanks to single runs in the first and third innings, and six innings of five-hit shutout ball from starting pitcher Jake Lindsay. But three straight hits by Rapids to start the seventh cut the Wildcat lead in half, and Rapids scored two more runs on RBI ground outs to take a 3-2 lead.
River Falls had the tying run thrown out at the plate for the last out of the game, ending their season with a record of 10-8. It's the third straight season the Cats have lost a one-run heartbreaker in the regional championship game.
"This game can humble a person so fast," Bishop noted. "For six innings we were in total control of this game. I don't think anyone was nervous heading into the last inning. Things happened so fast and all the sudden a two-run shutout is now a 3-2 deficit. We had another opportunity to score in the bottom of the seventh but it wasn't meant to be."
The loss spoiled a gutty outing by Lindsay in his final game as a Wildcat. The senior was still recovering from an illness that's affected him the last half of the season and struck out three without walking a batter until Rapids' three-run seventh.
"Very unfortunate timing for Jake to get as sick as he was for half of our short spring season this year," Bishop said. "He battled his heart out tonight, like he has his entire Wildcat career for us."
The Cats scored a run in the first when Adam Feyereisen led off with a single, moved to second on a sac bunt by Lindsay, and took third and scored on back-to-back wild pitches.
After drawing a leadoff walk in the third, Feyereisen was bunted to second again by Lindsay and scored on a single by Nick Speckman.
Feyereisen singled and reached third again in the fifth but was left stranded, and drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the seventh but was thrown out trying to score the tying run on gapper by Lindsay to end the game.
"We saw their ace of course, and he threw well," Bishop said about Wisconsin Rapids lefty Donovan Brandl. "We had some key opportunities to extend our lead but didn't get it done. Tip your cap to their ace; he made quality pitches when he needed them most."
Feyereisen had two of the Wildcats' five hits in the game while Speckman, Lindsay and Joey Davis had one hit each.
Bishop said it's always tough to see a season some to an end, but it's even tougher when it happens like it did last Thursday night.
"These guys have grown so much as a family this last year, and I think that's what made this one even tougher," he said. "To watch the boys hug each other one last time wearing that Wildcat jersey, there are no words to describe that feeling."
Bishop said he couldn't be prouder of what this year's group stands for, both on and off the field.
"Our seniors have done a great job bringing them all together and playing not only with each other, but for each other," he said. "Win or lose, that's the stuff that makes our coaches darn proud."