The Waterloo Bucks came into Wednesday night's Northwoods League game against the Brainerd Mighty Gulls looking to salvage the final game of the two-game series.
With a little help from their friends, the Bucks did exactly that and got past the Gulls by a 9-8 margin.
The friends turned out to be the Gulls and what proved to be an elusive baseball that surfaced in the sixth inning.
The Bucks scored all nine of their runs in the top of the sixth inning on just five hits. The Gulls contributed to the Bucks' cause with five errors in that inning, three by Brainerd third baseman Alex Dvorsky.
The Bucks' rally erased a 3-0 Brainerd lead and what had been, up until the sixth, a stellar performance by Gulls starter Lincoln Mincks, a 6-foot-1 right-hander from Des Moines, Iowa.
The Gulls started the scoring in the bottom of the first when center fielder T. J. Bohn stroked a two-out double into the left-field corner. It was the first of Bohn's three hits on the night. Dvorsky followed with an RBI single that staked the Gulls to a 1-0 lead.
Brainerd struck again in the second when catcher Greg Blaesing led off and was hit by a pitch from Bucks starter Doug Estop. It was a poor omen for Estop, who was not to survive the inning.
Shawn Smarsh followed with what looked like an attempted sacrifice, but the bunt dropped in for a single that chased Estop. Corey Lawson relieved Estop. After Jeremy Isenhower advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, Dante Brinkley, the Gulls' left fielder, singled home Blaesing.
Brinkley was then caught stealing for the second out of the inning. Bohn's single drove home Smarsh and the Gulls had built a 3-0 lead.
That margin stood up until the Bucks' half of the sixth.
Joe Ferin lead off the fateful inning when Mincks plopped him on the arm. Josh Arteaga of the Bucks then bunted for a base hit. The Bucks' first run came when Ferin scored on an RBI single by Andy Schutsenhofer that left runners at the corners and still no one out.
Jason Waugh reached on Dvorsky's first error before Matt Gardner ripped a liner to center that eluded Bohn, scoring Arteaga.
Bill Tripoli relieved Mincks and, one out later, Tim Gradoville slashed a two-run single. Chad Erk reached on an error by shortstop Isenhower. Tripoli struck out Brandon Cashman for the inning's second out.
But then, a single by Ferin was followed by two more Gulls errors and hits by Waugh and Gardner. Kindly, Brad Pierce flew out to center and, when the dust settled, the Bucks had grabbed a 9-3 lead.
Those nine runs would be all Waterloo would score and all that it would need to pick up the win.
Brainerd rallied to score five times in the bottom of the eighth, the big blow coming once again off the bat of T.J. Bohn. With three runs already in, two runners on base and two out, Bohn hammered a two-run double but was thrown out to end the inning when he tried to stretch the hit into a triple.
Bucks pitchers Frank Kunich and Zach Schreiber worked a scoreless ninth to close out the contest. Schreiber picked up a save with the win going to Lawson.
Waterloo 000 009 000 -- 9 9 0
Brainerd 120 000 050 -- 8 8 6
Waterloo -- Doug Estop, Corey Lawson (2), Matt Yourkin (8), Frank Kunich (8), Zach Schreiber (9) and Tim Gradoville; Brainerd -- Lincoln Mincks, Phil Tripoli (6), Andy Hansen (9), Mike Perkins (9) and Greg Blaesing. W -- Lawson (1-0). LP -- Mincks (0-2).
E -- Brainerd, Isenhower 2, Bohn, Dvorsky 3. 2B -- Schutsenhofer, Gardener, Erk, Bohn 2. SB -- Gradoville. Sac -- Isenhower, Bouzos. HP -- Ferin, Gardener, Blaesing. RBI -- Waterloo Ferin 2, Schutsenhofer, Waugh, Gardener, Gradoville 2); Brainerd Isenhower, Bohn 3, Bouzos, Dvorsky, Blaesing. LOB -- Waterloo 7; Brainerd 9. DP -- Brainerd 1.
Attendance -- 274. Records -- Waterloo 3-3; Brainerd 3-3. Next game -- Wisconsin at Mighty Gulls 7:05 tonight, Mills Field.
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