The River City Rascals (48-44) plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning and used
a dominant pitching performance from six arms to inch by the Florence Freedom (57-35), 2-1,
Tuesday night and move within a .5 game of a wild card spot with four games remaining.
After going down in order in their first opportunity, Rascals second baseman Jason Merjano
drew a walk against Tony Vocca and scampered home on a two-out RBI single Braxton
Martinez to take an early 1-0 lead.
“Merjano’s walk was big because he gave us great speed on the basepaths and then I got in a
3-1 count and got a good pitch to send up the middle and score him,” Martinez said.
Clint Freeman followed with a walk to load the bases and then Brandon Thomas was hit by a
pitch and plated what went on to be the eventual game-winning run.
After the second inning, the Rascals recorded just one more hit and it came in the bottom of the
fifth inning off the bat of Josh Silver. Silver’s single gave him 100 hits on the year and is the first
Rascal to accomplish that feat in 2017.
On the mound for the Rascals with the 2-0 lead was third year southpaw Lucas Laster and he
was stellar in his sixth start of the year.
The Freedom’s offense hardly mustered a scoring opportunity against Laster and lasted into the
seventh inning before being replaced.
Laster left the game with one out, runners on first and second and righty Ozzy Braff due up.
Rascals eighth year manager Steve Brook brought Nick Kennedy through the gates but the
Freedom responded with a pinch-hit infield single by Mike Morris to load the bases.
The only run of the game for the Freedom followed Morris’s hit and it came on a fielder’s choice
from catcher Garrett Vail.
Anthony Paesano finished out the inning and got help from catcher Mike Jurgella to throw out
Vail trying to steal second to hang on to the 2-1 lead.
The bullpen duties continued in the eighth and Paesano combined with Tim Koons and Jonny
Ortiz to hold the opponent scoreless despite a pair of baserunners in scoring position.
Cody Mincey took over for the ninth and after hitting the first two batters, got Mike Morris to line
into a double play and then struck out Vail to secure the Rascals 48th win and earn his team
leading 11th save.
“I had to bare down, battle and take a deep breath in tonight’s situation,” Mincey said. “I tried not
to make any particular pitch to perfect but was also trying to give us a fighting chance for the
defense to make a play.”
Lucas Laster took the win and allowed just one run, earned, on four hits and struck out four.
The win puts the Rascals one win away from their win total in 2016 and are just .5 game back of
the Washington WildThings for the final wild card spot. Windy City and Normal are also within a
game and those two teams have five games left.
“Everybody knows it’s crunch time and the situation that we are in right now,” Mincey said.
“Everybody stepped up and played a huge role tonight, like Koons who came in from a starting
role and did his job out of the bullpen.”
River City looks to gain ground in the race and can do that with a win against the Florence
Freedom Wednesday night at CarShield Field.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. with southpaw Dan Ludwig on the mound.