GRAND CHUTE, WI - Taylor Brennan found out on Wednesday afternoon that he would be the starting third baseman for the Western Division in the 2014 Midwest League All-Star Game. Brennan celebrated on Wednesday night with a two-run, walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers to a 6-4 win over the Cedar Rapids Kernels at Neuroscience Group Field at Fox Cities Stadium.
The first three Timber Rattlers to bat in the bottom of the first collected hits and Wisconsin had a 2-0 lead. Johnny Davis and Omar Garcia singled to start the frame. Garcia stole second to get into scoring position. Michael Ratterree followed with a double to left that scored both runners.
Cedar Rapids (27-32) loaded the bases in the top of the third inning when their first three batters of the frame reached on a double, a hit batsman, and a walk. Wisconsin starting pitcher Tyler Alexander walked Bryan Haar on four pitches to force in a run. But, Alexander worked out of the inning with a force out at the plate, a strikeout, and a grounder to short.
Alexander ran into trouble again in the fourth. He hit Ryan Walker and gave up a single to Engelb Vielma before being removed from the game. Alexander had 90 pitches - 46 strikes - in 3-1/3 innings and was relieved by Rodolfo Fernandez.
Fernandez got the second out, but walked the next batter to reload the bases. A passed ball on Clint Coulter with Haar at the plate allowed Walker to score the tying run.
The game remained tied to the sixth inning. Then, things got intense.
Taylor Williams, another Timber Rattlers All-Star, took over on the mound in the top of the sixth and allowed a double to Chad Christensen. Mitch Garver followed with a single to second to drive in Christensen to put the Kernels in front. An error on the play allowed Christensen to take second base. He would eventually score from third on a wild pitch by Williams and the Kernels were up 4-2.
Wisconsin (27-31) responded in the bottom of the sixth. Michael Ratterree was hit by a pitch to start the frame. Coulter, who was named the starting designated hitter for the Western Division All-Stars earlier on Wednesday, crushed a 1-0 pitch from Slegers to left for a two-run homer to tie the game. The homer was Coulter's eleventh of the season and he leads the Midwest League in that category.
The next pitch from Slegers was too close for comfort for Jose Pena and he stared down Slegers. Kernels catcher Michael Quesada got between Pena and Slegers and the benches and bullpens cleared to form a mob around the plate area. Words were exchanged between some as others tried to get the players back to the bench. There was a fifteen minute delay as the situation was sorted out by the umpiring crew.
Wisconsin lost pitching coach Elvin Nina, Pena, and starting left fielder Omar Garcia to ejections. The Kernels lost Quesada, infielder Joel Licon, who was the first player out of the bullpen, and Bill Springman, the minor league hitting coordinator of the Minnesota Twins who was in town with the Cedar Rapids.
The game resumed with Paul Eshleman taking over for Pena and flying out to center.
Cedar Rapids had an opportunity with runners at the corners and two outs in the top of the seventh. But, Williams struck out Christensen to end the threat. The Kernels stranded fourteen runners on base and went just 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Williams set down the Kernels in order in the eighth and ninth innings to keep the game tied and set the stage for Brennan's dramatics.
Eshleman started the bottom of the ninth inning with a single to right-center against reliever Brandon Bixler. Brennan took the first pitch he saw from Bixler in the ninth. Then, he sent a laser to the right of the batter's eye in center field. The ball hit off the boardwalk beyond the Kernels bullpen for a walkoff homer.
The home run was the first from Brennan since he hit one in the second game of a doubleheader against the Burlington Bees on May 30.
Wednesday marked the second consecutive walkoff win for the Rattlers. Francisco Castillo won Monday's game with a walkoff sacrifice fly to beat the Quad Cities River Bandits. This game was the fifth walkoff win of the season for Wisconsin. It was their second walkoff homer of 2014. Jose Pena hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to beat Lansing 10-7 in the first game of the doubleheader on April 16.
The second game of the series is Thursday night. Wisconsin pitcher Clint Terry (0-0, 0.00) will make his first start of the season. Cedar Rapids pitcher Fernando Romero will make his 2014 debut. Game time is 7:05pm.
The first 1,000 fans to attend this game will receive a special poster of Timber Rattlers outfielder Omar Garcia presented by Dunkin Donuts. The poster features a series of three photos taken of Garcia before, during, and after the catch he made to be named the #1 play of SportsCenter's Top 10 on May 14.
Tomorrow is also a Thirsty Thursday presented by Arty's Old Fashioned and 95.9 KISS FM. That means 22-oz Pepsi products, 16-oz Miller products, or Arty's Old Fashioned drinks for just $2.
If you can't make it out to the ballpark, tune in for the broadcast on AM1280, WNAM or IHeartRadio.com starting with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 6:45pm. The game is also available to subscribers of MiLB.TV.
Clint Coulter (11th, 1 on in 6th inning off Aaron Slegers, 0 out)
Taylor Brennan (5th, 1 on in 9th inning off Brandon Bixler, 0 out)
WP: Taylor Williams (3-1)
LP: Brandon Bixler (3-3)