GRAND CHUTE, WI - The 2012 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers won ten games on walkoff hits during the regular season. They did not have a walkoff win in any of their first four postseason wins. That changed on Wednesday night in Game One of the Midwest League Championship Series. Rafael Neda raced home from third base with the winning run in the tenth inning after a wild pitch to give the Rattlers a 3-2 victory over the Fort Wayne TinCaps at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Neda had two hits and also drove in a run for the Rattlers.
A wild pitch figured into Wisconsin's first run of the game. Brandon Macias walked to start the bottom of the first inning and was bunted to second base on a sacrifice by Chadwin Stang. Ben McMahan was at the plate and Fort Wayne starting pitcher Joe Ross uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Macias to score all the way from second for a 1-0 lead.
Fort Wayne would also score a run without the benefit of a hit in their half of the third inning. Kyle Gaedele walked and stole second. He scored when a grounder off the bat of Travis Jankowski was booted for an error.
Neda put the Rattlers in front in the bottom of the fourth. He lined a two-out double off the wall in left field to score Max Walla from second for a 2-1 lead.
The TinCaps tied the game in the seventh inning, but the Rattlers almost escaped the frame with the lead intact thanks to a rare defensive play.
Fort Wayne had runners on first and second with no outs. Catcher Austin Hedges sent a grounder near the third base bag. Macias fielded the ball, stepped on the base for one out, threw to second for the force out there, but the throw to first was just off line and Hedges reached as the Rattlers missed on turning a triple play. A wild pitch allowed Hedges to take second base. Then, Duanel Jones tripled to right-center to drive in Hedges and the game was tied again.
Jacob Barnes did not figure into the decision, but he continued the streak of stellar starts by Wisconsin pitchers. Barnes allowed a pair of runs - one earned - on four hits over seven innings. In the last five games, Wisconsin starting pitchers have pitched 39 and allowed five runs and only three of those runs are earned runs.
Neda started the game winning rally in the bottom of the tenth inning with a single to right off Fort Wayne reliever Luis De La Cruz. Adrian Williams bunted Neda into scoring position and the TinCaps elected to walk Macias. Stang sent a check swing slow roller past the mound the moved both runners up a base, but retired Stang for the second out of the inning. Then, Fort Wayne decided to walk Ben McMahan to bring Nick Ramirez to the plate.
De La Cruz almost threw his first pitch to Ramirez to the backstop. He did throw his second pitch to the backstop and Neda raced home with the game winning run.
The Rattlers have 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Game Two is Thursday afternoon at Time Warner Cable Field at Fox Cities Stadium. Chad Pierce will get the start for the Timber Rattlers. Fort Wayne counters with Colin Rea. Game time is 12:05pm.
Thursday is the final Bang for Your Buck game of 2012. Soda, hotdogs, and beer is available for $1. Thursday is also the final College Day of the year. Students should show a college ID to receive a reserved bleacher seat for $1.
If you can't make it to the game, tune in for the broadcast on AM1280, WNAM or timberrattlers.com starting with the Miller Lite Pregame Show at 12:05pm. Thursday's game is also available to MiLB.TV subscribers.
WP: Brent Suter (1-0)
LP: Luis De La Cruz (1-1)
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.