Every River City Rascals player that came to the plate Thursday night, in a key Frontier League West Division game at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon, between River City and the crosstown rival Gateway Grizzlies, had at least one hit and all but one of them scored at least one run for the Rascals in what proved to be a huge 12-2 win over the first-place Grizzlies.
River City came into the four-game series needing to make a serious statement if it was going to have any chance of getting back into the West Division pennant chase, which Gateway leads by a game-and-a-half over the second-place Schaumburg Boomers.
And the Rascals did so by taking two of the first three against the Grizzlies on Tuesday and Wednesday.
But on Thursday, River City showed it’s truly ready to make a move to get back into the divisional race by banging out a season-high 16 hits against four Gateway pitchers, including a second-inning grand slam home run by catcher and cleanup hitter Danny Canela.
The blast was Canela’s fourth homer of the season, and came as the final blow in a seven-run inning, which saw River City take quick control of the game.
Gateway starter Tucker Jensen (4-4) lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up a total of 10 runs and 10 hits to a Rascals lineup that finally seems to be finding its footing, after a dismal June, which saw the team win just eight of 26 games.
River City (21-27) is still nine games behind Gateway, but with just three games left until the All-Star break, could get even closer to first place before the league’s 14 teams take their annual midseason break next week.
Veteran righty Casey Barnes (3-2) got the win for River City, going six solid innings, and giving up just one earned run on nine hits. He also struck out four and walked only three on 125 pitches, 78 of which went for strikes.
The true stars of the night though, were the Rascals hitters, who managed in some way, shape, or form to get at least one hit in all but one of the eight innings they batted.
Designated hitter Sean Borman had three hits to lead the way, while first baseman Phil Wunderlich, backup catcher Anthony Foulk (who came in midway through after Canela left with an injury), third baseman Steve Carillo, and second baseman Will Block each had two hits apiece.
Leadoff man Eric Williams walked three times and joined Wunderlich and Borman as one of three Rascals to score at least two runs on the night.
Gateway got two hits apiece from Jonathan Johnson, Chris McClendon, and Michael Pair, and RBIs from Landon Hernandez and Jet Butler. But it wasn’t nearly enough to compete with River City on Thursday.
The Rascals will now hit the road for their final three games before the All-Star break, with a series at Rent One Park in Marion, Ill., against the Southern Illinois Miners, the third place team in the East Division, which has a 27-21 record.
Gateway (30-18) will close the first half with a home series at GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., against the Evansville Otters.