NORMAL, IL--The River City Rascals dropped a hard-fought series opener to the Normal CornBelters on Tuesday night at the Corn Crib, losing a back-and-forth game by a final of 6-4. CornBelters first baseman Chris Iriart finished the night with two homers and three RBIs to lead his team to the victory.
The Rascals pounced early, with back-to-back doubles in the first inning from Kevin Suarez and Clint Freeman. Freeman's double scored Suarez to make it 1-0. The CornBelters got a run of their own in the bottom of the frame, when Derrick Loveless scored on a passed ball.
The Rascals regained the lead in the third, on an RBI single from Ransom LaLonde, and added another run as Mike Jurgella scored on a throwing error at the plate by Normal pitcher David Perez, who had fielded a Rascals bunt on the play. The Belters scored two in the fouth, on an RBI single from Iriart and a sacrifice fly from Sam Vega to tie the game at three.
In the sixth, the Rascals took the lead on a bases-loaded infield single from LaLonde, but the Belters tied it on an Iriart homer in the bottom of the sixth. Normal took the lead in the seventh on a throwing error at the plate from Rascals pitcher Jonny Ortiz, as he tried to nab Santiago Chirino, who scored from second on a fielder's choice. Ortiz had been covering first in an unsuccesful double play attempt. Another Iriart home run in the eighth put the game to rest.
Rascals starter Scott Grist went four innings before leaving due to injury. Reliever Ryan Orr (0-1) took the loss, allowing an unearned run. CornBelters starter David Perez allowed three runs in three innings, and reliever Johnathan De Marte (1-1) earned the win, going two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Anthony Herrera earned his third save of the year in the top of the ninth.
The Rascals (21-19) look to bounce back tomorrow night against the CornBelters (17-20) in the middle game of the series, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 pm CT.