The River City Rascals (3-2) split a double-header with the Evansville Otters (2-3) Wednesday night at CarShield Field. In game one, starter Zeb Sneed combined with a pair of relievers to record the team’s first shutout in 2017, 3-0, however in game two, the Rascals dropped their second one run game of the year by leaving the winning run in scoring position. Both games were scheduled to go seven innings.
After being signed by the Rascals early Wednesday morning, Zeb Sneed picked up the win in the Rascals three-run victory against Evansville, lasting five innings, allowing five hits and struck out three.
“Pretty typical Sneed, he filled up the zone,worked off his fastball and used the wind conditions that we had to his advantage” manger Steve Brook said.
Sneed worked out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning with a routine 6-4-3 double play ball and then his team gave him the lead right away against Otters starter Max Duval in their first opportunity.
Leadoff hitter Brandon Thomas drew his seventh walk of the season and then stole second to get into scoring position. In 2016, Thomas set a new career high in stolen bases with eleven.
After a Mike Jurgella groundout to move Thomas to third, the former Gateway Grizzly came into score the first run of the game on a RBI groundout from Josh Silver.
In the third, the Rascals had a chance to extend the lead as Jurgella doubled to give the Rascals two runners in scoring position but a strikeout ended the threat.
In the fourth, Brook and company had a similar opportunity and this time didn’t let it get away and used a two-out, two RBI double from Clint Freeman to push the lead to 3-0.
That would be enough for Otters starter Max Duval to be handed the loss, his first of the season. The former Arizona Diamondback minor leaguer got tagged for three runs, just one earned as the Freeman double came after an error, on four hits three walks and four strikeouts.
Sneed picked up the win, his first of the year and Nick Kennedy tossed a scoreless sixth and closer Jason Zgardowksi a scoreless seventh to pick up his first save of the year.
“Zgardowski has come in with a lot of confidence and is always a really positive guy. I like seeing that out of guys, it can really help you when you have your downfalls and things go wrong,” Brook said. “We are going to roll him out there in that closing role and he has earned it, I think he has thrown better than anyone out here right now.”
Opposite of game one, the Rascals had to play from behind the entire game and had a great chance in the bottom of the seventh against the Otters closer Randy McCurry.
The man with 23 saves in 2016, walked Jimmy Kerrigan to open up the frame and then the tying run would reach base via an infield single from Thomas with Jurgella due up.
Hunting for their second walk-off win of the year, both runners would move into scoring position on a wild pitch from McCurry, however the Rascals offense would be halted after that.
McCurry struck out Jurgella, recorded a groundout against Silver and then Josh Ludy flew out to center to end the game.
Rewind to the beginning of game two, the Otters scratched a run in the opening frame off three hits, including a RBI single from veteran John Schultz against Rascals fourth year right-hander Tim Koons.
Making his first start of the year, Koons struggled with his command to begin the second inning and walked the first two guys he faced, putting him in a tough spot with the top of the order coming up.
Otters manager Andy McCauley delivered a sacrifice bunt sign to get both of his guys in scoring position with less than two outs and then the small ball continued when Myles Babbitt drove in Xyruse Martinez with a RBI groundout. Josh Allen then caused havoc ripping a ball to third that was misplayed and extended the Otters lead to 3-0.
However, River City would answer right back in the home half against Otters starter Felix Baez with three consecutive hits with two outs. Jason Merjano got the offense clicking with a single and then scored from first on a RBI double from Johnny Morales, his first RBI of the year.
Clint Freeman followed that up with a single to drive in Morales and the Rascals cut the lead to just one.
Rascals skipper Steve Brook called upon Reese Gregory with a runner on first and no outs in the top of the third to keep the Rascals in the game and he did just that his first three innings.
In the top of the fifth though, the Otters would get a leadoff home run from Jeff Gardner over the short porch in right centerfield which gave them what would go on to be the winning run.
The series concludes Thursday night at 6:35 p.m. as the Rascals send out southpaw Hector Hernandez to face the 2016 Frontier League Champion.