O’FALLON, MO. — The River City Rascals had their thrilling winning streak of walk-off victories end at three Saturday night at T.R. Hughes Ballpark, as the visiting Normal CornBelters handed the home team a 4-3 loss in the first game of a three-game series between the two Frontier League ballclubs.
The Rascals, who had actually won four straight before Saturday’s loss, had won all three games in the previous series in walk-off fashion, with game-winning hits by Kyle Jones, Charlie Lisk, and Chris Andreas.
But against the CornBelters, River City just couldn’t work its game-winning mojo like it did before.
Normal jumped on the Rascals early, and built a 4-0 lead after just two innings, with a run in the first on a double steal, and three more scores in the second, thanks to a pair of River City throwing errors, which ended up being the difference in the game.
The Rascals pecked away at the deficit though, with two runs in the third, on an RBI double by Lisk, and a sacrifice fly by Jeremy Synan.
The home team then added a run in the seventh, and nearly tied the game when designated hitter Jason Patton launched a deep drive off the top of the big wall in right field that scored Lisk, to make it 4-3.
Off the bat, it seemed like Patton’s blast might leave the park, which would have made the score 4-4, but the ballpark held it, and the Rascals could only get the one run out of what might have been the hardest hit ball of the night.
Ironically, Patton didn’t even get an extra-base hit out of his clout, as Normal’s Steven Felix played the ball perfectly off the wall, and held the River City slugger to a loud, long single.
The Rascals then went down in order in the eighth, but after reliever Brandon Cunniff did the same to the CornBelters in the top of the ninth, the stage was set for another potential thrilling finish for River City.
First baseman Gerardo Avila got things started with a leadoff walk. He was then pinch-run for by Matt Serna, who quickly moved to second on a balk by Normal closer Rich Mascheri.
That brought River City’s best hitters to the plate, Lisk and Synan. But both made easy outs, as Lisk popped out and Synan flied out to center, which ended his Frontier League-best 2012 hitting streak at 23 games.
Patton managed to beat out an infield hit, which moved Serna to third. But rookie Curran Redal bounded an easy ground ball to Normal first baseman Jordan Stouffer, who fielded it with no problem and stepped on first to end the game.
Fans were treated to another exciting finish, just not the one they were hoping for, after the past three nights of walk-off wins for the Rascals.
Former St. Louis Cardinal minor leaguer Tyler Lavigne (3-1) got the win for the CornBelters, after tossing seven strong innings, and giving up just the three runs on eight hits, four walks, and four strikeouts.
While River City’s Tony Marsala (2-2) took the loss for the Rascals.
The two clubs will be back in action on Sunday, with a 6:05 p.m. game at T. R. Hughes.
Lefty Jacob Liedka (1-2, 4.30 ERA) will start for the CornBelters, while righthander Keli’i Zablan (3-2, 2.64 ERA) will get the ball for the Rascals.