MARION, ILL. – The River City Rascals wasted little time jumping on the host Southern Illinois Miners, Friday night at Rent One Ballpark.
A crowd of 4,917 screaming Miners fans saw the Frontier League West Division-leading Rascals put up two quick runs in the first inning, and continue to add scores throughout the night, in what became a lopsided 7-0 victory over second-place Southern Illinois.
River City, which now has a record of 34-14 on the season, increased its lead over the Miners (31-17) to three games, and are assured of finishing the weekend still in first place regardless of what else happens in the remaining two games.
Southern Illinois, which knocked Windy City out of first place in the East last weekend, was hoping to do the same to the Rascals this weekend, and would’ve done so if they could’ve sweep all three games from River City.
But thanks to a little bit of timely hitting, and a whole lot of clutch pitching, the Rascals made sure that won’t happen.
Third baseman Chris McClendon returned to the River City lineup with a bang, smacking three hits in five at-bats, including a leadoff triple in the first that became the Rascals first run, when second baseman Doug Sanders singled him home four pitches later.
Rightfielder Stephen Holdren, one of River City’s eight all-stars, who appeared at the Frontier League summer classic Wednesday, walked on four straight pitches to make it three straight Rascals batters to reach base in the top of the first.
With one out, first baseman Joash Brodin lifted a sacrifice fly to right that scored Sanders, and gave starting pitcher Josh Lowey a 2-0 before he even took the mound.
Lowey (5-2) gave a brilliant performance on the mound in picking up the win.
The Rascals righthander went seven strong innings, and allowed just four hits and two walks to the Miners, while striking out six.
Those first two runs would’ve easily been enough for River City, but a pair of two-run home runs by Holdren (#12 in the fourth inning) and Brodin (#8 in the eighth) sandwiched around a fifth inning RBI groundball by Sanders made sure River City could cruise to victory in its first game back after the all-star break.
Relievers Sean Toler and Dustin Umberger pitched scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth innings to close out the win for the Rascals.
The two teams will be back at it Saturday evening at Rent One Ballpark.
Lefty Zach Robertson (4-0) will get the start for the Rascals, while former Rascal Ryan Zink (3-2), a righthander, will get the ball for the Miners.
First pitch on Saturday night is set for 7:05 p.m.
Other Frontier League scores on Friday night:
Florence Freedom 6 Gateway Grizzlies 5
Rockford RiverHawks 2 Joliet Slammers 1
Windy City ThunderBolts 2 Traverse City Beach Bums 4
Lake Erie Crushers 5 Washington WildThings 3
Normal CornBelters 2 Evansville Otters 4