Rascals Power Past ThunderBolts

CRESTWOOD, Ill. – The River City Rascals (17-14) launched three home runs and pounded out 16 total hits in a 10-4 victory against the Windy City ThunderBolts (17-15) in the series opener Friday night at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood, Illinois.

Mike Jurgella led the way offensively for the Rascals with a four RBI night and got the productive outing going right away when he stroked a two out, three-run round tripper over the left-center field wall to put his team on top 3-0 in the opening frame against the ThunderBolts starter Zac Westcott.

After the four game winner faced the minimum in the second, he once again had to face Jurgella with two runners on base due to back-to-back singles from Josh Silver and Braxton Martinez.

With one out in the third inning, Jurgella attacked the first pitch he saw out of the right hand and found a hole to score Silver and drive in his fourth run of the night. With the hit, the second year Rascal became the third Rascal this year to drive in four runs or more in a single game.

“I just wanted to make sure I was recognizing the good pitches to hit and avoid chasing the bad ones,” Jurgella said. “I was fortunate to run into a couple pitches tonight.”

Meanwhile, Rascals starting pitcher, southpaw Hector Hernandez held the opponent hitless through the first three innings and then a one out single from Tim Zier in the bottom of the fourth followed by a double from catcher Larry Balkwill scored their first run of the night.

The Bolts bats remained hot in the fifth and they strung together five consecutive hits with two outs, including three RBI singles to tie the game up at four against Hernandez.

Hernandez would halt the offense right there with an inning ending strikeout and go on to earn the win due to his offense picking him up in their next opportunity.

In his third win in a row, the former 10th round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals tallied 6.1 innings and allowed four runs, earned, on nine hits and struck out six.

In the top of the sixth, Clint Freeman led off with a double and then advanced to third on a groundout with the top of the order due up.

Freeman scored the eventual game-winning run due to an error from third baseman Andrew Dundon and Jason Merjano would reach as well. That chased Westcott from the game and Bolts manager Ron Biga called upon righty Tyler Murphy to face the Rascals team leader in batting average Jimmy Kerrigan.

Kerrigan shot a ball into the sky into shallow centerfield that dropped between Zier and Keenyn Walker for a single and an error on Walker allowed Merjano to score and Kerrigan to be in scoring position for Silver. The speedy outfielder proceeded to steal third and it proved to be a huge swipe because he would then scamper home on a sacrifice fly from Silver to push the Rascals lead to 7-4.

Merjano tallied a RBI for run number eight in the eighth frame and then Braxton Martinez and Josh Ludy stroked a pair of solo home runs against lefty Chris Chigas in the ninth to round out the Rascals 10 run, 14 hit night.

Of the 14 hits, Kerrigan had three to push his average to a .351 and extend his hitting streak to 17 games. Josh Silver also extended his hitting streak to 17 games and four separate players notched a two-hit game: Jurgella, Martinez, Freeman and Taylor Love.

“We had a tremendous amount of energy tonight and you could see it from the beginning of the game with the guys grinding out at-bats prior to Jurgella’s home run,” Brook said. “The energy level could have been very low, we had a hard bus trip overnight from Washington where guys had very little sleep because you have to sleep on the ground or across the seats in twisted ways.”

Nick Kennedy, Matt Chavarria and newcomer Cody Mincey finished the outing for the Rascals pitching staff and combined for four strikeouts without allowing a hit.

“Hector also came in with a lot of energy and had a huge shutdown inning in the sixth after they got seven hits in the previous two innings against him,” manager Steve Brook said. “Our bullpen followed up after that and Chavarria had a great inning and Mincey came in and threw the ball very well.”

The series continues Saturday night as the Rascals send righty Tim Koons to the mound in search for their first series win on the road in 2017. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.