CLINTON – Coming into the weekend with just a three game lead on Wisconsin in the Midwest League wildcard race, the Clinton LumberKings needed at least two wins to make sure they were still ahead of the Timber Rattlers when they came out of this four-game series.
After a series-opening loss on Saturday, the stakes were pretty high, but they solidified their lead with two consecutive wins to follow.
The LumberKings bounced back in a huge way Sunday afternoon, defeating their West Division foe 12-1 in an offensive showcase that included three long balls. They did the same with a 6-2 win Monday night, ensuring that they’ll still be in front of Wisconsin no matter the outcome tomorrow.
It pulled them to just one game behind division leader Kane County as well. See Page 15 for the full Midwest League standings.
Sunday was a dominant performance by Clinton. First Peyton Burdick crushed a 2-run homer. Then Evan Edwards did the same. Edwards followed it up with a grand slam in the eighth inning, solidifying a 12-0 lead.
Plus, the pitching on Sunday was superb. Jake Walters went seven and two thirds innings and allowed just four hits, sending seven to the pines on strikes.
It was just the momentum they needed.
“It’s real big,” manager Mike Jacobs said. “The guys know what is at stake. We started off a little slow obviously, but Walters threw [a great game], we got some big hits at the game progressed.
“It was just a solid baseball game. They swung the bats, they kept the line moving, and anytime you can jump out to a decent lead it helps with Walters throw his game.”
The momentum carried into the third game of the series Monday night. Josh Roberson twirled another good outing for Clinton starters, going six and two thirds innings with no allowed runs and four hits.
Those deep, quality starts are big. But also no uncommon for the Clinton pitching staff.
“If you look throughout the year, our pitching has been real good all year,” Jacobs said. “They’re just continuing what they’ve been doing. Anytime you can get good starting pitching and save your bullpen a little bit that’s going to be a big help.”
After taking the 1-0 lead in the second, the Clinton bats went off to score five runs in the bottom of the fourth. Peyton Burdick wore a pitch to start the inning, advancing on a wild pitch and scoring on a single from Kameron Misner.
JD Osborne was hit by a pitch as well to put two on, the a bunt laid down by Thomas Jones scored Misner and kept two runners safe. Davis Bradshaw and Samuel Castro both singled to score the final two runs and give the LumberKings a 6-0 lead.
The Timber Rattlers pushed their two runs across in the top of the ninth.
With just over a week left in the season, the LumberKings are looking poised to take a spot in the Midwest League Playoffs. It’s something they’ve been watching as a team, and the pressure doesn’t seem to be phasing them.
“We’ve talked about it for a couple of weeks,” Jacobs said. “It’s ultimately in our hands. I want the guys to experience it and all these games matter.”
They finish out the series with Wisconsin on Tuesday night at NelsconCorp Field, looking to take three of four from the Timber Rattlers.