Game slips away in Cedar Rapids; Playoff chances take huge hit

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | June 17, 2011 8:20 PM ET

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA - The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers could not hold a 7-0 lead on Friday night and it cost them a lot in the chase for their first playoff spot since 2005. The Cedar Rapids Kernels rallied to beat Wisconsin 8-7 in ten innings at Perfect Game Field.

Reggie Keen got the Rattlers (37-31) off to a great start with a double to begin the game. He would score after a sacrifice bunt by Nick Shaw and an RBI grounder by Cody Hawn.

Wisconsin got back-to-back- home runs from Chris Dennis and TJ Mittelstaedt in the top of the second. Greg Hopkins hit a leadoff home run in the top of the third. Later in the third, Keen drew a bases loaded walk to give the Rattlers a 5-0 lead.

The Rattlers tacked on two more runs in the fourth inning on an RBI double by Mike Walker and an RBI single by Mittelstaedt.

However, Wisconsin collected just one more hit in the game after that single by Mittelstaedt.

Jimmy Nelson, the starting pitcher for the Rattlers, ran into trouble right away in the bottom of the fourth. He hit Ricky Alvarez to start the inning. Justin Bass followed with an RBI double. Brandon Decker tripled in Bass and would score moments later on a sacrifice fly by Wes Hatton to make the score 7-3.

Nelson got the second out of the inning, but Carlos Lugo singled, Travis Witherspoon reached on catcher's interference, and Rolando Gomez reached on an infield single. An error on the play allowed Lugo to score and Witherspoon to take third. A wild pitch by Nelson let Witherspoon score and the Kernels had pulled to within 7-5 after four innings.

Charly Bashara took over for Nelson in the fifth inning and allowed one hit over 3-2/3 innings. He left with a runner at second and one out in the eighth. Tyler Cravy entered the game and struck out both batters he faced to send the game to the ninth with the Rattlers still up by two runs.

Wisconsin closer Greg Holle entered the game in the bottom of the ninth. Holle was 15-for-15 in save opportunities coming into Friday's game. He allowed a leadoff single to Jean Almanzar. Holle got ahead of pinch-hitter Marcus Nidiffer 0-2, but hit him with an off speed pitch to put the tying run on base. Then, Witherspoon singled to load the bases with no outs.

Gomez knocked in the first run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to right, but Nidiffer held at second base. Holle got the second out on a high chopper to first, but both runners moved up a base. That brought Alvarez to the plate and Holle missed away on an 0-1 pitch. The ball got to the backstop and Nidiffer scored the tying run.

The Rattlers were lucky to get the game to extra innings as Alvarez scalded the next pitch to left, but it was hit right at Mittelstaedt for the final out.

Wisconsin went down in order in the top of the tenth. The Kernels got started immediately in the bottom of the tenth against Stosh Wawrzasek. Bass singled. He went to second on a wild pitch. A grounder to the right side moved Bass to third with the winning run. Wisconsin decided to walk Hatton intentionally to set up the double play.

But, a pitch to Jesus Campos bounced well in front of home plate and rolled to the backstop. Bass scored the winning run easily.

The Rattlers playoff chances may have rolled to the backstop with the baseball on the final pitch of Friday's game. The Quad Cities River Bandits, the team the Rattlers trail in the first half Western Division Wild Card race, defeated Peoria 4-1 at home.

Wisconsin's loss and the win by Quad Cities reduced the River Bandits magic number to clinch the wild card to one. Both teams have two games remaining in the half.

The Rattlers and Kernels play again on Saturday night at Perfect Game Field. Game time is 6:35pm. Wisconsin sends Jameson Dunn (2-0,, 1.59) out as their starting pitcher. The Kernels will counter with AJ Schugel (2-2, 3.41). Tune in for the broadcast on AM1280, WNAM or with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 6:15pm.

Chris Dennis (7th, 0 on in 2nd inning, off Baudilio Lopez, 0 out)
TJ Mittelstaedt (5th, 0 on in 2nd inning, off Baudilio Lopez, 0 out)
Greg Hopkins (2nd, 0 on in 3rd inning, off Baudilio Lopez, 0 out)

WP: Daniel Tillman (4-1)
LP: Stosh Wawrzasek (1-2)

TIME: 3:49
ATTN: 3,427

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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