Unfazed by a pair of lead-changing solo shots in the ninth and 10th innings, the Thunder Bay Border Cats just kept plugging away Tuesday afternoon.
Persistence paid off.
Facing Mike Nowak (L, 0-2), Tyler Stetson walked with the bases loaded and two outs in the 10th, plating Michael Foster with the winning run, securing a 6-5 triumph, the Cats fourth straight win at Subway Field.
Twice earlier Ryan Casillas tied the back-and-forth contest, which saw the Moon Dogs take the lead on three separate occasions, only to have Thunder Bay rally to complete the four-game home-stand sweep.
“It was tough to lay off, but my teammates put me in a great position there to get a great team win,” said Stetson, who went hitless in four previous at bats hitting out of the No. 9 spot in the line-up.
“I was just looking to get a hit there or get on base. A walk does it there.”
Casillas, a second-year veteran hitting .462 in three appearances for the 4-3 Cats, twice doubled to tie the game, the first a two-run blast to right-centre that scored two to knot the score 3-3 in the eighth, the second hugging the line in right that plated the equalizer in the 10th.
“I got the pitches I wanted and just sat back and tried to hit the ball hard and things worked out,” Casillas said.
It wasn’t easy shaking off the late-inning home runs, momentum shifters in most outings.
Mankato's Ryan Rosthenhausler connected first, in the ninth, a two-out rocket to left breaking a 3-3 tie.
But Alex Bautista, brought on to pinch-hit for Jacob Rogers in the bottom of the inning, swatted a 2-1 count over the wall in left, nearly an identical shot, that tied the game all over again.
The tie didn't last long.
Chase Simpson, who homered in Monday night’s series opener for the Moon Dogs, connected again, off reliever Cameron Wood (W, 2-0), giving Mankato a 5-4 lead.
Border Cats manager Dan Holcomb said Bautista, who wears No. 19 in honour of Toronto Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista – no relation – said power wasn’t exactly what he was looking for at that point in the game.
“We were looking for a little bit more speed and we knew we had to get a guy on to start the inning. Alex has very good speed and we thought if he hit a ground ball he’d have a chance to beat it out,” Holcomb said.
“It’s just a fresh bat up at the plate and he was able to come up with a big hit and it ended up being a home run.”
Ryan Atwood made his Border Cats debut on the mound and tossed four innings of one-hit ball, allowing just one hit and two walks.
The Dogs cracked first facing Donovan Thiac on the mound in the fifth, roughed up for a pair in his only inning of work.
Mankato starter Donovan Feenstra, meanwhile, lasted into the seventh, departing with two outs and only four hits allowed.
White was tagged for all three runs in the eighth, while Jesse Harbin gave up the tying run in the ninth.
Wood worked five innings of four-hit ball, giving up a pair of earned runs, to capture his second win of the season.
The Cats head to Willmar on Wednesday for a pair, followed by two against Rochester. They return home Sunday with a 5:05 p.m. start against Waterloo.
Cat tracks: Attendance was 715, the highest in four outings, mainly consisting of students from Woodcrest, Westmount, St. Martin’s and St. Patrick schools, the reason for the 11:05 a.m. start. About 2,000 students are expected next week at the second weekday matinee.
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