Nothing is more exciting than a baseball game coming down to one big play late in the game.
Except when it ends this way.
The Wisconsin Woodchucks scored the winning run in the top of the ninth on a wild pitch to edge the Brainerd Mighty Gulls 3-2 Tuesday at Mills Field in Northwoods League play.
Wisconsin used a lost-in-the-lights double to left and an infield single to put runners at the corners in the top of the ninth against Brainerd starter Devin Thomas with one out.
With the game tied 2-2, Gulls head coach Kyle Crookes decided to bring in Dustin Braud, his closer, to keep the Woodchucks from scoring.
One of Braud's pitches to Jeremy Aranda, the first batter he faced, appeared to hit Aranda in the foot. That would have loaded the bases, but umpires instead called it a wild pitch, allowing Nathan Wright to score the tying run from third.
Braud got the next two batters to ground out to second base, meaning a double play would have been possible.
"Yeah, he got hit," Crookes said of the controversial call. "Ask the hitter. Ask Aranda. He got hit in the foot and they blew the call. They also blew one in the third inning when they missed the balk (on Thomas). That was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen. They cost both teams a run. They were equally as bad."
The loss was Brainerd's third in a row.
"Every once in a while you get those," Thomas said. "You just have to suck it up and play through it. I thought we played pretty well, but the ball didn't bounce our way a couple of times and we ended up coming away with a loss."
Thomas and Wisconsin starter Josh Perrault gave up their two runs in the first four innings, then settled down to shut each other out in the next four. Perrault pitched eight innings to get the win, yielding two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five.
Woodchucks closer Steve Grasley, who leads the league in saves, struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to secure his 15th save.
Thomas pitched a decent game for the Gulls, but took the loss. He gave up all three runs through 8 1/3 innings on eight hits and two walks while striking out three.
"They were out in front all day on changeups," Thomas said. "I wasn't throwing my curveball particularly well, but I got them to at least pay attention to it because I threw it for a strike a couple of times. But I had a great defense behind me. They did a great job. They do an amazing job every night."
Thomas was the beneficiary of a double play in the fifth. Twice, Brainerd outfielders threw out runners trying to stretch singles into doubles.
Brainerd designated hitter Ben Vannatter drove in both of Brainerd's runs with singles in the second and fourth innings.
Wisconsin picked up its two early runs in the third on consecutive singles by Nathan Wright and Casey Baker.
Wright doubled in the ninth for Wisconsin as the Brainerd outfielder lost the ball in the lights. Casey Baker followed with a full-swing single that dropped like a perfect bunt to put runners at the corners, leading to the controversial play.
"We missed a fly ball," Crookes said. "That's the game.
"Devin pitched a tremendous game. We didn't execute offensively in the seventh or the eighth, so the umpires weren't the difference."
Wisconsin 002 000 001 -- 3 8 2
Brainerd 010 100 000 -- 2 6 0
Wisconsin -- Josh Perrault, Steve Grasley (9) and Jason Wuerfel. Brainerd -- Devin Thomas, Dustin Braud (9) and John Purdom. W -- Perrault (2-3). L -- Thomas (5-3). Sv -- Grasley (15).
2B -- W-Dan Augustine, Nathan Wright. SB -- B-Tyson Hanish. Sac -- B-Ryan Finan. RBI -- W-Wright, Casey Baker; B-Ben Vannatter 2. LOB -- W 4, B 3. DP -- B 1.
Time -- 2:20. Attendance -- 625. Records -- W 8-10, B 11-7. Next game -- Brainerd vs. Wisconsin 7:05 p.m. today, Mills Field.
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