AVON, OHIO — The old saying goes “there’s no place like home.”
And for the River City Rascals, that statement was never more true than this week, when the club suffered its first series sweep of the season at the hands of the Lake Erie Crushers.
On Wednesday, River City got clubbed 7-1, after a harrowing bus trip from Missouri to Northeast Ohio. Then on Thursday, the Rascals got thumped again, 11-6, in a wild ballgame at Lake Erie’s All Pro Freight Stadium, here in the suburban Cleveland area.
But Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Crushers might have been the most maddening for River City, which finally got a quality pitching effort from one of its starters — veteran Tony Marsala, but wasted it by stranding 10 runners on base in the game, including six that were left in scoring position.
Lake Erie took quick advantage, scoring two runs on just one hit in the third inning to grab the early lead.
But things seemed to be turning River City’s way in the fourth, when shortstop Bobby Burk blasted his fourth home runs of the season, a mammoth two-run blast, deep over the wall in the left field to tie the score, and finally give the Rascals some momentum.
Unfortunately, that momentum lasted just two batters into the home half of the fourth, as Lake Erie left fielder Kellen Kulbacki lead off with a double to the wall in center, then scored on teammate J.C. Figueroa’s single to center, which gave the Crushers the lead for good.
From that point on, four Lake Erie relievers held the Rascals to just three hits the rest of the game, with rookie Ben Klafczynski (2-0) pitching out of a two-on, nobody-out jam in the fifth to get the win.
And almost fittingly, in a series River City will be happy to forget, the Rascals missed a golden opportunity to tie the game in the ninth, when Eric Williams walked to leadoff the inning, then stole second, and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by teammate Curran Redal.
But sluggers Chris Andreas and Gerardo Avila left him stranded there, as Andreas popped out to third, and Avila struck out against Crushers closer Jonathan Kountis to end the game.
Marsala (2-3) took the loss for the Rascals, despite tossing six solid innings, and allowing just three runs and seven hits, while striking out four, and walking just two.
Lake Erie has now won five straight games, and has pulled itself to just one game below the .500 mark at 19-20 this season.
River City, which had been on a bit of a hot streak, after winning five of six games on its last homestand, has now lost three straight, and has fallen to 22-17 on the year, which puts the Rascals in third place –three games behind the Schaumburg Boomers in the Frontier League West Division standings.
Fortunately for River City, the road trip to Northeast Ohio was only for those three games, and the club will be back at home sweet home — T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon, for a three-game homestand against the Normal CornBelters.
First pitch Saturday night is set for 7:05 p.m., with righthander Keli’i Zablan (3-2, 3.25 ERA) getting the start for the Rascals, while lefty Tyler Stovall (1-4, 5.00 ERA) will start the game for the CornBelters.