O’FALLON, MO. — River City Rascals rookie infielder Kyle Jones came off the bench Wednesday night at T.R. Hughes Ballpark, and proved to be an unlikely hero for the Rascals, in a 7-6 win over the archrival Gateway Grizzlies.
Gateway had come back from a 5-2 deficit to take a 6-5 lead going into the final inning, but River City loaded the bases with two outs against Grizzlie closer and former Rascal Richard Barrett.
Jones came into pinch-hit for Matt Serna, who had come in as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning for Josh Workman, who regularly plays third base for the Rascals.
But it was the River City third-string infielder Jones, who saved the day for the Rascals, with a looping single to center off Barrett that scored Charlie Lisk and Jeremy Synan with the game-tying and game-winning runs.
The victory, which gave River City an 18-13 record on the season and a modest two-game winning streak, also ended a string of six straight one-run losses for the Rascals, and gave the club its first back-to-back victories since it defeated the Evansville Otters twice in a row on June 1 and 2.
First baseman Gerardo Avila belted his third home run of the season in the third inning to give River City a 3-1 lead, but Gateway answered back with a run in the fifth to make 3-2 Rascals.
River City countered with runs in the bottom of the fifth and in the sixth, to build that comfortable 5-2 lead.
Synan, River City’s rookie right fielder from North Carolina State and the Miami Marlins organization, extended his hitting streak to 20 games and drove in that fourth run with a single in the fifth, and everything seemed all good for the Rascals.
But Gateway loaded the bases with three straight hits in the eighth, and then picked up a run on a sacrifice fly by Antone DeJesus.
That brought Gateway’s leading RBI-man, Jerod Yakubik, to the plate. And he delivered a two-run single off River City closer Dustin Umberger that gave the Grizzlies their first lead of the game.
And it seemed like that edge would hold for Gateway, after Barrett retired the first two batters of the ninth for River City, but with two outs, he hit Lisk with a pitch, and allowed the next two batters to reach on an error and a walk.
The defensive whiz Serna was due to hit next, but Rascals manager Steve Brook turned to Jones instead, hoping the former NCAA Division II All-American from Sonoma State University in California, might be the man to create some River City magic and pull out a walk-off victory.
Fortunately, Jones was the man for the job and River City was able to claim a victory in a game it was just one out away from taking as a defeat.
Thursday night, the two clubs will be right back at it, with another 7:05 p.m. matchup at T.R. Hughes.
Veteran righty Preston Vancil (1-3, 3.71 ERA) will start for the Rascals, while Gateway will send Tim Brown (3-2, 1.81 ERA) to mound to start.