Last week's Top Five Tuesday list was a look at the best road games of the 2013 season. This week, here are the best home games of the most recent season of Timber Rattlers baseball.
5. May 8 vs. Clinton LumberKings [Game 1 of Doubleheader]; Timber Rattlers 5, LumberKings 0 - Tyler Wagner entered this game with a 2-1 record and 17 strikeouts in 23 innings. He had pitched three scoreless innings of relief at Clinton on April 20 and was coming off a win at Lansing in his previous start.
He started the game with a 1-2-3 frame and the offense jumped out to a nice lead with four runs in the bottom of the first. Wagner pitched around an error and a walk in the second inning, worked a 1-2-3 frame in the third, and got the first two outs of the fourth. Then, there was a walk on a 3-2 pitch and a single for the first Clinton hit of the game. Wagner got out of that inning with a force out at second.
In the fifth, Wagner struck out the side in order on twelve pitches - ten strikes to maintain that 4-0 lead.
Clinton's only real threat to score came in the sixth inning. Wagner gave up back-to-back singles with one out. Dario Pizzano, who had not yet become the tormentor of the Timber Rattlers, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the frame.
Wisconsin scored a run in the bottom of the sixth and Wagner tossed a 1-2-3 seventh to finish off the complete game shutout. Wagner allowed three hits, walked two, and struck out ten in seven innings for a big win.
4. June 29 vs. Kane County Cougars; Timber Rattlers 10, Cougars 9 - Both teams entered this game, the ninth of the second half, with a 1-7 mark. Neither team had looked particularly sharp heading into the first meeting of the second half. This game wasn't even very well-played. But, by gosh, it was entertaining and it had a great finish.
Preston Gainey was the starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers and he escaped a bases loaded jam in the first and a leadoff walk in the second. But, with two outs and none on in the third, Dan Vogelbach hit a home run. Wisconsin answered in the third on a bases loaded double by Orlando Arcia and added a run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Chris McFarland to make it 4-1.
Gainey allowed a two-run single to Oliver Zapata in the seventh and gave way to Taylor Wall, who promptly picked Zapata off first base and struck out the next batter to keep Wisconsin up 4-3.
Wisconsin added a couple of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh on a wild pitch and a passed ball for a 6-3 lead.
Ryan Gibbard came on in the eighth and pitched a scoreless frame. Then, he went out for the ninth. The first three batters reached on a hit batsman, a single, and another single to load the bases. A walk to Zapata forced in a run, a sacrifice fly cut Wisconsin's lead to a run, and a grounder off Gibbard let another run score to tie the score 6-6.
Gibbard went back out for the top of the tenth and the Cougars had a double, a sacrifice bunt - with the throw going to third to allow the bunter to reach first - and a sacrifice fly by the first three hitters to take a 7-6 lead. Two more singles in the inning gave the Cougars an 8-6 lead.
Entering the bottom of the tenth trailing by two runs, the Rattlers came right back. McFarland walked, Michael Reed tripled him home. Then, Tyrone Taylor singled with one out to knock in Reed to tie the game 8-8.
In the top of the eleventh, Gibbard walked the leadoff batter. Albert Almora was next with a sacrifice bunt. Lefty Mike Strong took over on the mound to face Vogelbach. But, the Cougars first baseman singled on a 3-2 pitch to give Kane County a 9-8 lead.
The Rattlers battled back in the bottom of the eleventh. Mike Garza and Adam Giacalone both singled with one out. Pinch runners Adrian Williams and Alfredo Rodriguez took over on the bases. Chris McFarland drove in Williams with a double to tie the game. Kane County walked Reed to load the bases and set up the double play with the infield playing in on the grass. Arcia sent a grounder to second. The throw home got the force out, but the throw to first sailed down the right field line to let the winning run score.
3. August 27 vs. Kane County Cougars; Timber Rattlers 8, Cougars 7 - These two teams met up again two months later near the end of the regular season. Somehow, the Rattlers were still in the hunt for a playoff spot despite a 29-34 record in the second half as they took the field on this beautiful Tuesday afternoon.
Kane County scored an unearned run off Jorge Lopez in the first. The Rattlers answered with an unearned run in their half of the first.
Kane County scored two runs on three hits and an error in the second. The Rattlers answered with three runs on no hits and two errors in their half of the second.
The Cougars had a run in and the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the third, but Lopez escaped with the score tied 4-4.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Rattlers loaded the bases with no outs and scored two runs: One scored on a 4-3 double play, the other on a two-out single by Tyrone Taylor.
Lopez, who had worked a 1-2-3 fourth and retired the first two batters in the fifth inning to keep that lead at 6-4. Then, a double and a Reggie Golden home run tied the game.
Wisconsin retook the lead in the bottom of the eighth. Rodriguez had a sacrifice fly to drive in Dustin Houle for a 7-6 advantage.
But, the Cougars tied it on a leadoff home run in the top of the ninth.
In the bottom of the ninth, Taylor reached with a leadoff single. He was still there with two outs. Garza stepped in and doubled to right and the Rattlers as Taylor raced home as the winning run.
I thought about linking to the game winning hit, but just watch the whole highlight package. I don't think the above recap gives some of those runs the justice they deserve.
2. July 28 vs. Burlington Bees; Timber Rattlers 6, Bees 5 - Garza put the Rattlers up 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning with a two-out triple to score Victor Roache. From there, Burlington built a 5-1 lead with three runs in the third and two in the fifth.
Wisconsin had chances throughout the game, but couldn't get anything going…until the ninth.
I look at my scorebook. I look at the highlights. I look at the play-by-play and I still have no idea how it happened. I am only glad that it - a five run ninth inning to win the game - did happen.
First, they load the bases with no outs. A grounder to short was booted to let the first run score and keep the bases loaded. The next batter should have hit into a 6-4-3 double play, but a wild throw to first allowed two runs to score and the Rattlers were only down 5-4. But, the second out of the inning came on a caught stealing and there was no one on base.
Victor Roache singles to keep the game alive. Garza singles to keep the game alive. Garrett Cooper was down 0-2 and sent a line drive to right for what should have been the final out of the game. But, the right fielder charged in only to have the ball carry over his head to the wall for a walkoff triple. I still can't believe that they won this game.
1. August 5 vs. Beloit Snappers; Timber Rattlers 6, Snappers 5 - Any team can come back from a 5-1 deficit in the ninth once. The memorable teams can do it twice in two weeks.
McFarland gave Wisconsin a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Ryan Mathews hit a home run off Wagner in the top of the fifth and the game stayed tied until the eighth.
Beloit scored an unearned run off Harvey Martin on a two-out error in the eighth. Matt Olson hit a three-run home run with two outs in the top of the ninth and the Snappers had a 5-1 lead.
Dakota Bacus, the starting pitcher for the Snappers, had shutdown Wisconsin after the RBI single by McFarland. No, seriously. He retired the next thirteen batters of the game to get to the bottom of the ninth and a try for a complete game.
Then, Victor Roache hit a ball. You know, when the light is just right and I am looking at the proper angle from my office at the stadium, I can make out the tear that ball left in the space-time continuum. The home run made the score 5-2.
Cooper followed with a line drive through the infield and that ended the day for Bacus. Tyler Vail took over and - while he did strikeout the first batter he faced - threw a couple of wild pitches to get Cooper to third base. Max Walla singled to drive in Cooper for a 5-3 score. McFarland singled and Arcia doubled to knock in Walla for a 5-4 score.
The contact play didn't work for the Rattlers as Rodriguez had a grounder to short and McFarland was thrown out at the plate. So, the Rattlers were down by one with two outs and runners on the corners.
Reed stepped in and somehow got a blooper to drop in for a single to score Arcia. Then, Rodriguez (not Arcia again as I say in the highlight at the end) kept chugging for third base. The pitcher Vail was over to cover the base, but he could not handle the throw. Rodriguez scored and the Rattlers won the best home game of the 2013 season.