The River City Rascals (48-47) dropped game two of the three game series to the Southern Illinois Miners Saturday night 4-1 and due a Crushers loss, the Rascals can clinch a post-season berth with a win in the final regular season game Sunday evening at Rent One Park.
The Rascals entered Saturday night winless through the first four games of the road trip and had a chance to take an early in their first opportunity against the Miners starter Brooks Trujillo.
With one out, Johnny Morales singled and Josh Ludy doubled giving the Rascals two runners in scoring position with clean-up hitter Josh Silver due up. Prior to the contest, the Rascals failed to score first during the four game losing streak and the trend continued with a pair of shallow fly outs into right field.
Trujillo was solid the rest of his outing retiring his next eleven hitters and allowing just one more hit the rest of his outing, which lasted five 2/3 innings.
On the mound for the Rascals was Zeb Sneed and he was just as solid holding the Miners scoreless on three scattered hits during the first four frames.
However, with two outs in the fifth inning, the Miners would double their total number hits and broke the scoreless tie with a RBI double from catcher Toby DeMello. The western division champions third hit in the inning put them on top 2-0, a RBI single from Kurt Wertz Jr.
“They have capitalized on two out hitting and we haven’t, that’s what we need to do different tomorrow and hopefully get some breaks. That’s a large part of the game and sometimes you do it and sometimes you don’t,” manager Steve Brook said.
Sneed came back out for the sixth inning and was charged with an unearned run that ended his outing. Frontier League Rookie of the Year Shane Kennedy began the frame reaching on an error from second baseman Jason Merjano and then came around to score via a RBI double from Nolan Early to make it 3-0 and chase Sneed out of the game.
Leaving in line for the loss, Sneed allowed three runs, two earned, on seven hits and struck out five.
Veteran Nick Kennedy recorded the final out of the inning for Sneed and then the Miners scored their final run in the seventh inning with an infield RBI single off the bat of Shane Kennedy. The hit was against Schierholz but the run was charged to Michael Gunn as he walked the first two hitters to begin the frame.
The Miners held the lead going into the ninth and since they were up four runs, they didn’t begin the inning with their closer Adam Lopez. Instead it was southpaw Rich Mascheri and he allowed a pair of singles before recording the first out in the inning. Looking to hold the four run lead, Miners Manager Mike Pinto brought in Lopez and after walking Gaedele and throwing a wild pitch to bring in Josh Ludy from third, he struck out Mike Jurgella and it was Clint Freeman who represented the tying run with two outs. With two strikes on him, Freeman ripped the ball to second and a diving play from Shane Kennedy ended the game and the Rascals dropped their fifth game in a row.
Lopez got the save, his 13th of the year while Trujillo earned his fourth win of the year tossing five 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed just three hits.
The regular season ends Sunday and the Rascals control their own destiny for a post-season berth. A Rascals win locks them in, a Crushers loss locks the Rascals win but a Rascals loss and a Crushers win would end the year for River City.
“it’s coming down to the last day and something that I have preached all year is to play your best baseball at the end of the season. We have been in the playoff mindset the last month or so and despite the losing streak we are actually playing pretty good right now,” Brook said. “We got Ludwig going tomorrow night and we have to throw everything we can at Southern to get the job done. We can’t ask for anything more than to have a meaningful last game of the season, that’s an accomplishment as it is.”
First pitch of the 96th game of the year is scheduled for 5:05 at Rent One Park with left-hander Dan Ludwig on the mound.