Kyle Gaedele slugged a three-run home run to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and teammate Mike Jurgella scored the Rascals winning run on a wild pitch by Miners closer Adam Lopez to take game one of the five game series at CarShield Field, 4-3, in the opening round of the 2016 Frontier League Playoffs.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, all odds were against the Rascals as they trailed 3-0. The team had just one win on the year when trailing in the final frame. On top of that, their opposition on the mound Adam Lopez was a perfect 13 for 13 in save situations.
The Southern Illinois closer was on for a four out save and he started out in his usual fashion, retiring the first batter he faced on weak contact to end the eighth inning. In the regular season, Lopez allowed just two runs on ten hits in 25 1/3 innings after returning from injury.
However, the Rascals more than doubled his run total in the bottom of the ninth inning and it began with back-to-back singles by Josh Ludy and Josh Silver. With no outs, Gaedele launched the home run over the left field wall to tie the game at three and the Rascals had the chance to record just their second walk-off win of the year.
“We had a lot of good at-bats in the final inning and just battled against some of the good pitches he threw,” Gaedele said. “The ball found our barrels a couple times and we found some holes to pull even.”
Jason Merjano flew out, followed by a Mike Jurgella double off the top of centerfield wall to represent the winning run with Clint Freeman due up. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Jurgella moved to third on a wild pitch and then scored the winning run on Lopez’s second wild pitch to open up the postseason in dramatic fashion.
“It was huge, getting the first win of a series is always so important and to do it the way we did tonight gives us all the momentum going into game two,” Gaedele continued.
Heading into the ninth inning, the Rascals had just five hits against three different pitchers, including the Miners starter, Jarett Miller, who retired the first eleven batters he faced.
Miller finished tossing six innings and outdueled Rascals southpaw Austin Warner to leave in line for the win.
Early on, the Miners 3-0 lead came courtesy of an Aaron Gates two-run home run in the third over the leaping Robby Enslen and then a sacrifice fly from Toby DeMello in the seventh inning.
Besides that, Warner was stellar allowing a total of just two hits and tied his career high with eleven strikeouts through 6 1/3 innings. The only downfall to Warner’s night was his four walks.
Nick Kennedy and Shane Street finished out the seventh and eighth and then Jason Zgardowski snagged the win as he struck out the side in the top of the ninth inning.
“Our pitching staff came out and did an amazing job combining to punch out 16 guys which is a new season high for us. Austin Warner had a great start and it’s good we didn’t waste his effort,” Brook said. “Also, Shane Street was probably the best I have ever seen him and if he continues to do that it really solidifies our bullpen moving forward.”
Offensively, the Rascals finished with nine hits including two each from Alexi Colon, Josh Ludy and Josh Silver.
Wednesday night the Rascals will send right-hander Dylan Brammer to the mound looking to win the first of two more games that would put the Rascals in the Frontier League Championship Series for the third consecutive year.
First pitch at CarShield Field is scheduled for 6:35.