The River City Rascals (9-11) led by as much as five runs Saturday night against the Gateway Grizzlies (5-15) but failed to hold on to the lead and dropped game two of the series by a score of 10-9.
The one run loss was the Rascals fifth of the season and Saturday night also marked the fourth straight series loss away from CarShield Field.
Although the Rascals were up by five runs two separate times during the game, the Grizzlies offense came to life and kept chipping away at lead, enough to trail by just one run going into the bottom of the eighth inning.
With two outs, the Grizzlies kept the inning alive with a double from Josh Bunselmeyer and due up next was the Rascals 2017 villain Blake Brown.
Brown launched a pair of three-run home runs on Friday night to lead his team to victory and game two was a similar story. On the first pitch of the at-bat against reliever Matt Chavarria, Brown smoked a ball over the rightfield wall to put his club on top 10-9. With the long ball, Brown leads the Frontier League with seven home runs.
The long ball is also how the Grizzlies got their scoring going to begin the game and leadoff man Evan Rogers took Rascals starter Austin Warner deep in the bottom of the first inning to put the Grizzlies up 1-0.
On the mound for Gateway was Adam Eggnatz and he carried that momentum into his second inning of work and struck out the side to maintain the narrow lead.
However, that lead wouldn’t last long as the Rascals strung together four consecutive hits, including a three-run homer from Jason Merjano to put his team out in front by a pair of runs in the third inning. Three batters later, Josh Ludy extended the Rascals lead to 4-1 with a sacrifice fly to score Jimmy Kerrigan.
The hits continued to come for the Rascals in their next frame and after Johnny Morales and Brandon Thomas both reached on a walk, Jason Merjano continued his heroic night with a triple to give the Rascals their largest lead at 6-1 and chase the Grizzlies starter out of the game.
Chad Gendron was the reliever called upon by Grizzlies manager Phil Warren and he got his team out of the fourth inning without Merjano coming into score.
Gendron’s team would answer with two runs of their own against Warner in their next opportunity with a two RBI single from Garrett Mattledge to cut the deficit to three and then both teams would exchange runs in a wild fifth inning.
For River City, they got their fifth inning runs via a Morales fielder’s choice and a ground-rule double from Clint Freeman, who had three hits on the night.
On the opposite side of things, the Grizzlies scored three runs on two RBI groundouts and a throwing error to make the score 8-6 going into the sixth inning.
The Rascals would score their final run in the sixth on a throwing error from Bre’shon Kimbell and then failed to convert in scoring opportunities in the eighth and in the ninth.
Gateway tagged Nck Kennedy for a pair of earned runs in his two innings of work setting them up for their go-ahead blast from Blake Brown in the eighth to give the Grizzlies their fifth win of the year and Rascals reliever Chavarria the loss.
Both starters took a no-decision and Rascals southpaw Austin Warner’s final line was six runs, five earned, on ten hits and struck out four in five innings of action.
In total, the Rascals tied a season high with 13 hits and four players had a pair (Merjano, Kerrigan, Thomas, Silver), while Clint Freeman led the way with three.
“Our offense is coming together just everything needs to click, which it will,” Merjano said. “It is taking a little longer than we had hoped but things are moving in the right direction and we are looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow.”
The Rascals will look to avoid the sweep Sunday night with first pitch at GCS Ballpark scheduled for 6:05 p.m.