By Brenden West
Assistant Sports Editor
Recent call-up Mark Bordonaro seems to be comfortable in his new green uniform, even with the game on the line.
Friday night, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers put the tying run on second base with one out in the ninth inning — creating a jam for the LumberKings’ new closer. Bordonaro quickly ended hope of a comeback, striking out the next batter, Adam Giacalone, and baiting a game-ending groundout on the next pitch with the LumberKings ahead 3-1.
It sealed Clinton’s series win over Wisconsin (three out of four games since Tuesday) and earned Bordonaro his second straight save.
“When I’m in something like that I just try to get the ball on the ground and leave it to my infield. I know they’ll take care of the rest,” he said. “Just trying to execute one pitch at a time.”
It was a fitting end to a game ruled by pitching. LumberKings starter Tyler Pike threw three innings before allowing his first baserunner. He finished with seven innings and six strikeouts.
Wisconsin starter Jorge Lopez went inning-for-inning with Pike, allowing only one hit through three. But Clinton found hits at the right time, something that stuck out to manager Eddie Menchaca.
“Situational hitting tonight was pretty darn good,” Menchaca said. “We scored two runs in the seventh and the eighth. We worked on it today, and it was nice to see the players put it into a game.”
Through three innings, neither team could get it going offensively. Pike struck out the side in the third to notch five strikeouts at that point. In the bottom half, Martin Peguero reached base with a single, but Lopez struck out Jabari Henry to keep the game scoreless.
The Rattlers’ Michael Reed opened up the scoring with a double to left to lead off the fourth. Teammates Orlando Arcia and Tyrone Taylor sacrificed to bring Reed home to take a 1-0 lead.
Clinton tied it in the bottom half with a Tyler Marlette RBI single. Lopez then struck out Tim Lopes, and the inning ended with three stranded runners.
The game continued its deadlock until Gaby Guerrero led off the seventh inning with a base hit up the middle. Lopes moved Guerrero to third with his own base hit, and Peguero’s sacrifice fly gave Clinton the lead for good.
Clinton almost unraveled in the ninth. With Taylor on second and one out, Victor Roache lined one to center field. The ball bounced off Janelfry Zorrilla’s leg and allowed Roache and Taylor to advance into scoring position.
Zorrilla was charged with an error, but it proved indifferent to the outcome.
On Tuesday, Menchaca said he wanted to see the team win more series in order to vie for the Midwest League postseason. Since the All-Star Break, Clinton is 6-2 and took both series against Burlington and Wisconsin.
“I think the starting pitching has a lot to do with it,” Bordonaro said. “They’ve been establishing the inside fastball and making life easier for us relievers.”
Friday also meant payback for the LumberKings following Thursday night’s controversial loss. Umpires reversed a home run call that allowed Wisconsin to extend the game into extra innings.
Although the sting from that loss was still fresh, players and coaches said it wasn’t weighing on their minds in the series closer.
“Since the start of the second half we’ve been playing really good baseball. Even though we lost that game, we fought back in extra innings. Even if we’re behind we can still strike at any moment,” first baseman Taylor Ard said. He led all hitters, going 2-for-2 with an RBI.
“I think the players knew that if we won last night we could’ve come into today and swept them,” Menchaca said. “It is what it is. Last night was last night and it’s over.”
What is getting attention is the pitching staff. Despite having four pitchers on the DL, the LumberKings allowed one run for the second time this week.
“Both our starters and our bullpen are doing a great job. We hand it over to our bullpen and know we have a good chance to win the ballgame,” Menchaca said.
“They’re letting us go a little bit longer and seeing what we can do,” Pike said.
Although overall records (first- and second-half combined records) aren’t factored into playoff bids, the win over Wisconsin also put Clinton back over .500 at 39-38.
The LumberKings travel to the Quad Cities tonight at 7 to open a series against the 5-3 River Bandits.