Evansville Otters (8-8) catcher Dane Phillips tied a Frontier League record by smashing three home runs, including a three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning to lead his team past the River City Rascals (8-8), 7-3, on Tuesday night at Bosse Field.
The heroic night for Phillips didn’t take long to get going as he stroked his first homer with two outs in the opening frame against Rascals starter Hector Hernandez to put his club up 1-0.
In the second, the 2016 Frontier League Champion Otters doubled their lead with a RBI single from Brandon Soat into right that scored Jeff Gardner.
River City had a solid chance to tie the game in their next opportunity as the Otters starter Shane Weedman, who tossed a no-hitter in his 2017 debut, walked Johnny Morales and Josh Silver to put the tying run on base with no outs.
Rascals manager Steve Brook called for a sacrifice bunt from Mike Jurgella and the second year catcher executed well putting both runners in scoring position for the Rascals leader in batting average Braxton Martinez.
However, Weedman was perfect the rest of the third inning and issued back-to-back strikeouts to keep his team out in front by a pair of runs.
Weedman would go on to strike out two more in the fourth inning before running into command issues in the following frame and putting his team’s lead at risk.
Two walks and the second hit of the night for Josh Silver loaded the bases with no outs and once again Braxton Martinez was due up. The St. Charles native would answer with a RBI single to cut the lead in half and then a Weedman wild pitch scored Silver to tie the game at two.
After Weedman struck out his eighth and ninth guys of the night, he was relieved in the inning by right-hander Austin Sweet.
In a no-decision, Weedman allowed the two runs, earned, on four hits and five walks.
The 2-2 tie would be the closest the Rascals would get to earning a series opening win as Phillips took the lead again with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against Hernandez, who would take his third loss of the year despite a quality start.
In his solid outing, Hernandez lasted 6.1 innings allowing three runs, earned, on four hits and struck out a season high eight.
The biggest blow came in the bottom of the seventh after reliever Steven D’Amico loaded the bases on a single, walk and a hit batter with Frontier League MVP Josh Allen due up.
Joe Iorio came into relieve D’Amico and after a sacrifice fly that extended the Otters lead to a pair of runs, Phillips, the former second round pick of the San Diego Padres, clubbed his record tying third home run with two on base to give his team their largest lead of the night at 7-2.
Though not as impactful as Phillips’s blast, Johnny Morales hit the game’s fourth long ball with his first homer of the year, a solo shot in the top of the eighth inning against Otters reliever Jason Broussard to cap off the scoring at 7-3.
Overall, the Rascals notched eight hits, compared to the Otters six, marking the first time this year the Rascals drop a game while out-hitting the opponent. The four run loss was also the largest defeat of the season.
Josh Silver and Johnny Morales each recorded two hits.
The Rascals look to bounce back Wednesday night as they play game two of the series against Evansville.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 with Tim Koons on the mound.