NORMAL, IL--The River City Rascals suffered a crushing loss against the Normal CornBelters on Friday night, dropping the series opener 7-4 at the Corn Crib. The CornBelters scored three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, and held on for the win.
The Rascals got of to a great start, with the the first four batters of the game reaching base, highlighted by Paul Kronenfeld's two-run double with the bases loaded. Gage West gave the Rascals a 3-0 lead on a sacrifice fly later in the frame. The Belters bounced back with a run of their own in the bottom of the first, on back-to-back doubles from Santiago Chirino and Derrick Loveless. Ransom LaLonde led-off the top of the second with a solo shot to left field, in what would be the Rascals' final run of the game. Sean Hurley cut the Rascals lead to 4-3 with a two-run blast in the bottom of the second, after Justin Fletcher reached on an error to begin the frame.
The score would remain 4-3 until the bottom of the sixth, when the CornBelters, after back-to-back walks and a sacrifice bunt, tied the game 4-4 on Michael Baca's sacrifice fly. They took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs. Cody Erickson reached on a one-out single. Then, on a bunt by Baca, Rascals catcher Mike Jurgella's throw to first was off the line, going deep into foul territory, allowing Erickson to score and Baca to get to third. After James Davison Jr. walked and stole second, Chirino drove in two runs on a single. Jess Amedee retired the side in order in the top of the ninth, earning his first Frontier League save.
Rascals starter Dan Ludwig took a no-decision, giving the Rascals 4 1/3 innings in his return from the injured reserve, allowing two earned runs and striking out six. Reliever Cody Mincey (4-2) earned the tough-luck loss, despite giving the team 1 2/3 gritty innings out of the bullpen.
Belters starter Nick Bozman recovered after a tough start to go six innings, allowing four runs and striking out six in a no-decision. Reliever Thomas Nicoll (1-0) got the win, going two scoreless innings out of the bullpen while striking out four.
The Rascals (38-39) fall below .500 for the first time since May 15th, and will look to bounce back against Normal (41-32) in the middle game of the series tomorrow night, with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 pm CT. Josh Kimborowicz is expected to make the start for the Rascals.