Woodchucks Hang on Late to Conclude Historic Season
WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WI – The season came full circle for the Wisconsin Woodchucks (44-28) in a 4-2 win Saturday night at the home of their local rivals, the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters (38-34).
The 2021 team cemented themselves as the winningest team in franchise history, surpassing the 43-win plateau set by the 2012 Woodchucks.
The bats were slow to warm Saturday night as neither team moved a runner into scoring position until the fourth inning.
A scoreless tie was finally broken after Clayton Mehlbauer legged out an infield grounder with Ryan Sepede at first base. The Bellarmine Knight induced a throwing error from Rafter third baseman Lance Gardiner. As Ryan Sepede rounded third, another errant throw sailed into the Rafter dugout, allowing Mehlbauer to jog home.
The Chucks scored again in the sixth when Brock Watkins’ two-run single plated both Mehlbauer and Anthony Catalano, who both stole bases in order to get into scoring position with two outs.
Woodchucks’ starter Nick Marshall turned in his strongest outing of the season, striking out seven and allowing only one run over six-plus innings. The Antigo native who started the 2020 season opener capped off his 2021 season with a win. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, skipper Corey Thompson called upon reliever Tommy Wahl.
Rafters center fielder Addie Burrow hit a fly ball to deep right field, but Sepede ran to the warning track and laid out for a diving catch. Instead of tying the game, the Rafters were turned away on one of the highlight-reel plays of the Woodchucks’ season.
From there, Wahl worked a scoreless eighth inning to keep the Woodchucks ahead 4-1. In the ninth, reliever JD Schultz struggled with command and loaded the bases with none out.
Peyton Schofield warmed up quickly and came out of the ‘pen with the franchise’s winningest season hanging in the balance. He struck out Burrow and popped up Gardiner before hitting McKinley Erves with a pitch to make the score 4-2.
But after that, Schofield forced Rafter shortstop EJ Exposito to fly out to center fielder Aaron Simmons. The victorious Woodchucks high-fived on the mound – having now won a franchise-record 44th game.
The save for Schofield was his second and the team’s 27th of the season, setting a league-wide record for saves by a team in a single season.
With the Mallards’ win tonight, the Woodchucks do not qualify for the 2021 NWL playoffs. Madison claims the second half championship due to owning the second in a series of pre-determined tiebreakers: Head-to-Head record (overall) against the team with the next best record – the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders.
The Woodchucks finish their 2021 season with a 44-28 record – the best overall record of any team in the Great Lakes West Division. They went 23-14 in the second half after going 21-14 in half number one to secure their winningest season in 27 years.
The Wisconsin Woodchucks are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 27-year old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 22 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, over 200 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champions Ben Zobrist (CHC) and Brandon Crawford (SFG) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET) and Curtis Granderson (TOR). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.woodchucks.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Woodchucks as your favorite team.
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