The River City Rascals (2-1) scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning but left the the final two runs needed to win the game in scoring position and dropped the series finale, 11-10, Sunday evening at CarShield Field against the Normal CornBelters (1-2).
Trailing 11-6 going into the frame, Johnny Morales led off with a single and Josh Silver followed with his third double of the game creating drama against the CornBelters right-hander Shawn Blackwell.
Blackwell was in his third inning of work and although at one point lost the lead in the seventh inning, was in line for the win entering the ninth. However, it wasn’t easy for Blackwell as the Rascals made it 11-7 with a RBI groundout from the Rascals 2016 leader in RBI Jason Merjano.
Mike Jurgella followed with a RBI single to give him his third RBI of the game and it brought the tying run to the on-deck circle with one out and three time Frontier League All-Star Josh Ludy up.
CornBelters manager Brooks Carey made a call to the bullpen, bringing in Friday night’s losing pitcher Christopher Long and Ludy smoked a ball to off the edge of Aaron Dudley’s glove at first base to bring the tying run to the plate.
After a pop out in shallow right, the Rascals were down to their final out against the third reliever of the inning, Brandon Maddern. The southpaw didn’t get a lot of help from his defense and back-to-back errors brought the Rascals home a pair of runs to make it 11-10. After the errors and a walk to Brandon Thomas, the Rascals had the bases loaded but Maddern struck out Johnny Morales to end the night and escape with a victory.
The comeback situation arose for the Rascals due to large innings in the final three frames for Normal. The Rascals had a 4-1 lead going into the top of the seventh for starter Austin Warner but the Belters bats came to life with a RBI single from Ty Morris and a three-run home run from Yeixon Ruiz to give his club a 5-4 lead.
That lead didn’t last long for the Belters though as Josh Silver and Mike Jurgella both tallied RBI doubles to retake the lead, 6-5.
However, the CornBelters offense kept rolling and had another three run shot, this time off of Skylar Hunter to give them an 8-6 lead and then scored three more runs in the ninth via a bases loaded walk and a pair of RBI singles to give them their largest lead of the night at 11-6, against Stephan Swagerty.
The winning pitcher was Blackwell (1-0), while Hunter (1-1) took the loss allowing three runs on three hits and Brandon Maddern earned the save.
Both starters got a decision, with Rascals starter Austin Warner outlasting Belters starter, going 6.1 innings. Warner allowed five runs on seven hits and struck out one in his 2017 debut.
Offensively, Mike Jurgella and Josh Silver each had three hits and three other players had a pair: Ludy, Martinez and Clint Freeman.
The one-run game marked the third consecutive game that was decided by one run and the Rascals look to get back on the right track Wednesday night as they play host to the Evansville Otters for a doubleheader beginning at 5:05 p.m.