The River City Rascals allowed 13 runs and were defeated in game three of the Frontier League Championship Series Saturday night, 13-7, against the Evansville Otters, making game four on Sunday a win or go home scenario for the Rascals.
After both teams combined for just four runs during the first two games of the series, the Evansville Otters more than matched that in their first offensive inning and sent all nine hitters to the plate.
Otter’s leadoff hitter Rolando Gomez led the night off with a single and got into scoring position right away on a sacrifice bunt from the Frontier League MVP Josh Allen.
Rascal’s starter Dylan Brammer walked John Schultz and then a Chris Breen single loaded the bases with one out in the opening frame. Brammer became one out closer to getting out of the jam with a strikeout but then with two outs Nik Balog put the Otters on the scoreboard with a two RBI single. A walk to the next batter ended Brammer’s night and Rascals manager Steve Brook went to right-hander Joe Pavlovich.
The Otters responded with another two RBI single to take a 4-0 lead and then a throwing error from Rascals catcher Josh Ludy gave the Otters a five run advantage before the inning came to a close.
After a scoreless bottom of the first induced by Otters starter Preston Olson, his club added five more runs and the Rascals again had to use two different pitchers to get out of the inning.
Pavlovich loaded the bases with a walk and two singles and then after he was relieved by Reese Gregory, cleanup hitter Chris Breen smacked a grand slam to put the Otters up 9-0. The Otters added one more on an error that scored Chris Sweeney.
Offensively, the Rascals tallied the most runs and hits in any 2016 postseason game and they began to chip away at the lead in the fourth inning on a RBI fielder’s choice from Jason Merjano and a RBI single from Clint Freeman.
The Rascals stayed with the hot bats in the bottom of the fifth inning and chased Otters three year ace, Olson, out of the game after five consecutive Rascals reached against him and no outs being recorded.
Morales and Ludy walked, followed by a RBI single from Josh Silver and a base hit from Kyle Gaedele. Merjano was the final hitter Olson faced and it was a two RBI double, giving him a team high three RBI on the night and a postseason team high of seven.
The Rascals final two runs came home to score on a passed ball from catcher Julio Rodriguez in the fifth inning that made it 10-6 and then an eighth inning pinch-hit home run from Braxton Martinez against the Otters third of four pitchers, Ken Frosch.
“Very tough loss, we fought and crawled our way back and then kind of gave it away offensively, had a couple bad base running mishaps and then a really big mishap at the plate,” Brook said.
The home run made it 13-7 and the other three Otters runs to get them from 10 to 13 came on a sacrifice fly in the seventh and a pair of back-to-back solo home runs in the eighth inning from Gardner and Balog.
The Rascals pitching staff got the most solid outing out of Will Schierholz, lasting a season long four innings and giving up one run on two hits.
Shane Street (two earned runs) and Jason Zgardowski finished out the Rascals arms going the eighth and the ninth inning.
With the Otters win, they can take the Frontier League Championship tomorrow and with a Rascals win they force a game five Monday night.
“We got our back against the wall but we wouldn’t have it any other way with this team. Going through the last month that has been the case, we got a lot of guys who can come out and throw tomorrow and hopefully we can come out on the right end and force a game five where anything can happen,” Brook said. “Tomorrow we need to do what we do be successful, which is limit our walks, make our plays and when we get the chance to hit with guys in scoring position we need to get them in.”
First pitch on Sunday at CarShield Field is scheduled for 3:05 with Otters right-hander Matt Wivinis and Rascals southpaw Dan Ludwig.