O’FALLON, Mo. — The rain couldn’t put a damper on the Rascals offense on Friday night as they beat the Normal CornBelters 8-6. Despite a 55-minute delay before first pitch, River City (7-5) was able to strike early for a first inning lead. Normal (2-11) looked ready to end their six-game losing streak when they came back to take the lead the in the fourth, but the Rascals answered and snapped a two-game losing streak of their own.
The Rascals batters were ready to explode when they finally got to bat after starter Jason Ziegler worked around a leadoff single in the top of the first. Dominique Taylor and Johnny Morales started the home half of the first with back-to-back triples. Morales’ turned into a “Little League home run” when a throwing error allowed him to score from third behind Taylor. The Frontier League’s leading hitter, Josh Silver, followed up one of baseball’s most exciting plays with a comparatively mundane single but came around to score two batters later on Kyle Gaedele’s double. Gaedele did the same when Willi Martin copied him with two outs to give River City a 4-0 lead at the conclusion of the first inning.
The CornBelters chipped away at the lead with a run in both the second and third. In the second, Nolan Meadows reached on an error before eventually scoring on a double by Michael Skoller. Ziegler was able to escape a second-and-third-one-out jam to limit the damage. In the third, it was Meadows picking up the RBI on a sac fly that scored Santiago Chirino.
In the fourth inning, things went from a trickle to a geyser for the CornBelters.
Normal started things off with a single, followed by a double, followed by a groundout to Silver at third base that scored a run to cut the lead to 1. A groundout by the next batter made it look as though Ziegler would once again escape a dangerous inning with minimal casualties, but the CornBelters did not let him off the hook this time. Back-to-back RBI doubles chased Ziegler from the game and gave Normal a 5-4 lead. Will Schierholz came in and ended the onslaught by winning an eight-pitch battle with a groundout to Morales at shortstop.
Martin would provide the first word of the Rascals’ answer right away, with the second of his two doubles on his 3-for-3 night. Mike Jurgella scored Martin on the very next pitch with a single. Jason Merjano then jumped on a first-pitch strike for an RBI double. Silver capped the inning off with another single to score Merjano and end the the wild fourth inning with the Rascals in front 7-5.
The Rascals tacked on an insurance run in the eighth despite having their leadoff walk erased when a pinch runner was caught stealing. The bottom of the lineup continued its productive day with the eight-hitter, Jurgella, scoring on a single by the nine-hitter, Merjano, with a little help from a misplay by the Normal left fielder.
River City closer Zac Treece entered the game in the ninth and had his first truly eventful save. Treece got the first two outs with a single by Aaron Dudley between them. Then, Meadows knocked home Dudley with a double to record the first run against Treece this season. A successive walk and hit-by-pitch loaded the bases. However, Treece induced a groundball and to finish his third save of the season.
Schierholz got his second win of the season in relief for his 2.1 innings of scoreless work. Lucas Laster followed Schierholz and pitched out of the bullpen for the first time this season after starting two games, including one just two days prior.
The Rascals and Cornbelters are back in action on Saturday night. The 6:35 p.m. first pitch should be on time as the weather report is much more baseball-friendly. Josh Wright (1-0, 1.68 ERA) will get the nod for the home team, and Jake Negrete (0-2, 6.30) will start on the mound for Normal.
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