LAKE TOMAHAWK - It has become a July 4 tradition for the Lake Tomahawk Snowhawks to face the Chicago All-Stars.
Combined with the post-game fireworks, the game is usually the most well-attended outing of the season and the Snowhawks prefer to give the crowd a fun night.
For eight innings, the two teams treated the capacity crowd to a low-scoring, tight game. In the top of the ninth, though, Chicago made its move, breaking a 4-4 tie by scoring six runs in a 10-7 victory to hand Lake Tomahawk a third consecutive loss to begin the season.
"It was a defensive game," Lake Tomahawk manager Jeff Smith said. "Everybody was hitting them right at each other for a while. There were some really nice (defensive) plays, but everything kinda got down to the ninth inning and the team that got the most hits came out ahead."
Many of the players on the Chicago All-Stars also played with the D&R Bombers two days earlier.
The Bombers squeaked out a two-run win over the Snowhawks in the previous meeting, so Smith knew his team was going to be in for a tough battle.
"I had a feeling this was going to happen," Smith said. "They're a great hitting ball team and for them to only have 10 runs was a shocker to us, but that's the way it goes. I give them all the credit. They got it done."
Each team scored a run in the first inning, with Chicago getting some breathing room thanks to runs by Tommy Walsh and Richie Ballistoni to take a 3-1 lead.
Chicago would take a 4-1 lead in the fifth as Ryan Maize scored after tripling to lead off the frame.
The Snowhawks would battle back, however, as Derek Young and Cole Punches recorded back-to-back hits to start the sixth inning and both eventually came around to score to cut the lead to one before Punches tied the game in the eighth.
"There were quite a few double plays out there," Smith said. "When we did have guys on base, it seemed like we hit the ball right to people and so did they. They had a few more high flies than they did the other night."
In the final inning Chicago came alive and began to place balls in the open spots in the field.
Six of the first seven batters in the inning reached base safely and eventually scored, as Chicago registered six hits and a walk to take a commanding 10-4 lead.
Mattie Richard, Bob Maize, Brandon Maize, Ryan Maize, Ballistoni and Matt Maize all earned hits for Chicago.
With one final chance to tie the game or take the lead in the bottom of the ninth, the Snowhawks put up a valiant fight.
Ryan Schowalter and Young both scored on a hit by Punches, before Brent Cella cleared the bases with a towering shot that earned him a triple.
Todd Neimuth stepped to the plate next but ultimately grounded out to the short stop to end the game.
"It was an exciting game, it was a serious game, although we did have a lot of fun," Smith said. "It was a nice night. I'm glad we got it in. With the threat of rain, I didn't know it was going to happen."
Smith and Punches both went 4 for 5 at the plate, while Cella was 3 for 5 in the game for Lake Tomahawk.
Despite the loss, Smith was happy to give the fans an entertaining evening on the field.
"That's all we wanted to do," Smith said. "Whether it's 25-22 or 10-7, the crowd stayed around. They saw a good ballgame and that's all we want to do. We want to have a good game and put two good teams out there. It was fun."
Lake Tomahawk (0-3) hosted Zimmy's All-Stars on Monday.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter@NickSabatoLT.