The River City Rascals (41-36) rallied for six runs in the top of the ninth inning to knock off the Gateway Grizzlies (24-52), 8-5, Thursday night at GCS Credit Union Ballpark in Sauget, Illinois.
2017 Frontier League All-Star Josh Silver was set to lead things off in the final frame and the Rascals needed a pair of runs to tie the game and three runs to take the lead against the Grizzlies closer Austin Sweet.
Sweet struggled in his second outing with his new team and issued a walk to Silver, bringing up the tying run to the plate in Paul Kronenfeld.
Kronenfeld sent a ball up the middle but a nice play by Grizzlies shortstop Joel McKeithan sent him back to the dugout and the Rascals were down to their final two outs down 4-2.
Silver moved into scoring position on the ground out and after pinch-hitter Braxton Martinez drew walk, Clint Freeman followed with a RBI single to bring the Rascals within a run.
Looking for his first save of the season, Sweet had the potential tying run on second and go-ahead run on first with one but he would get himself into more trouble and walked Brandon Thomas to load the bases.
Thomas was the final batter of the night for Sweet and Grizzlies manager Phil Warren went to his top starter Vincent Molesky for the second straight night in a similar situation.
The Rascals made the Grizzlies pay for the move as Johnny Morales put together a good at-bat resulting in a walk to tie the game and then Josh Ludy followed with what would be go on to be the game-winning hit, a two RBI double off the left center field wall to give the Rascals a 6-4 lead.
“He was a little bit erratic throwing to Morales before my at-bat and I have faced him over the past couple years so I was pretty familiar with his stuff,” Ludy said. “I got a 1-0 fastball down the middle of the plate and put a good swing on it.”
Mike Jurgella and Jason Merjano followed with a pair of RBI hits to extend the advantage to 8-4 and then despite allowing a run, Cody Mincey secured the victory and helped the Rascals earn their 41st win of the year.
“We put good at-bats together and just kept bringing the next guy up to the plate,” Silver said. “There was no selfish at-bats and tonight was a total team-effort.”
Anthony Paesano earned his first professional win as the result of the Rascals rally and he tossed a solid bottom of the eighth inning with a pair of strikeouts.
At one point, the Rascals trailed 4-1 and the only run they managed for the first seven innings against the Grizzlies starter Ja’Vaun West came when Kronenfeld was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the second inning.
That play resulted in a 1-0 lead for the Rascals but the opponent would tag righty Tim Koons for four runs in the next five innings for the 4-1 deficit.
In a no-decision, Koons lasted seven innings and allowed four runs, earned, on eight hits and struck out four. The start was his sixth time this season lasting at least seven frames.
Offensively, the Rascals tallied ten hits and three players notched a pair: Merjano, Jurgella, Silver. Johnny Morales was also a key contributor walking three times and homering for the second time in as many days. The solo shot gives him a career high five on the year and it came in the top of the eighth inning to bring the Rascals within two runs before the rally pursued one frame later.
“It’s really nice when you have a team who can come back in a situation like that when momentum was not on our side,” manager Steve Brook said. “Morales’s homer was big in the eighth to give our guys some more confidence and then the guys really responded well in our next opportunity. Mincey followed that up and did what he does best, throw strikes and forced the issue.”
The Rascals look to ride the late inning energy into the weekend series against the Normal CornBelters and finish the five game road trip on the winning side.
“Guys were trying to do everything they could the entire game but things weren't going our way,” Ludy said. “All of a sudden one inning changes how we leave the field tonight and it gives us a lot of momentum for the rest of the weekend.”
First pitch Friday night is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. at the Corn Crib with southpaw Hector Hernandez on the mound.