With the La Crosse Loggers struggling out of the gates this season, manager Brian Lewis wanted to try everything he could to get a win Saturday night.
Lewis’ late-game management and a lucky ricochet on a ground ball in the eighth inning was enough for the Loggers (3-9) to muster a win in their second one-run game in a row 5-4 against the Rochester Honkers in front of 2,451 fans at Copeland Park.
Grant Judkins led off the eighth inning with a double, and with the score tied at 4, Lewis promptly trotted out to assign Nick Schranck as a pinch-runner. After Schranck — a temporary contract player — advanced to third on a Yahir Gurrola sacrifice bunt, the Honkers were forced to bring the infield in. Schranck then scored the go-ahead run when Nicholas Kahle grounded a ball hard to second base that bounced off Ethan Ibarra’s chest, which was ruled a hit.
Starting pitching has been a weak spot for La Crosse this season, and right-hander Cody Ebert and the Loggers found themselves in familiar territory in the fourth, when Weston Hatten and Jordan Hart led off the inning with extra base hits for Rochester (5-7), followed by a two-run blast by Michael Michalak to put the Honkers up 3-0.
But Ebert settled in to retire nine in a row after Michalak’s home run, and pitched into the seventh inning.
In the sixth, the Loggers sparked a rally and broke Honkers’ starter Ryan Thompson out of his rhythm with what seemed to be an innocent two-out walk by Gurrola. Kahle followed that with a two-run homer into deep center field, and then Connor Perry kept the inning alive with a bunt single on Thompson’s 100th pitch of the game. Taylor Sanagorski lifted a ball to left in the next at-bat that caught just enough wind to carry over the wall and put the Loggers up 4-3.
The Honkers tied the game in the seventh with a Johnathan Fleek sacrifice fly.
Kahle, hitting out of the No. 6 spot, went 2-for-3 with three RBI.
Sidearm throwing Chris Boettcher earned the win for La Crosse, after he entered in the eighth and surrendered only one hit. Boettcher faced a jam in the ninth when a leadoff single and a steal of second by Mike Echavia was followed by a walk put the go-ahead run on first with nobody out. Boettcher then retired three in a row with a strikeout and a couple of flyouts.