The River City Rascals (49-45) tallied nine runs on 14 hits and took game one of the three game series over the Southern Illinois Miners (38-56), 9-4, Friday night at CarShield in front of 2, 262 fans.
Josh Ludy led the way with his second four hit game of the year and got the offense going in the bottom of the first inning with a two-run home run against the Miners starter, Corey Sessions.
Looking to stay alive in the playoff race, Rascals southpaw Hector Hernandez turned in a dominant second and third inning and had seven strikeouts heading into the bottom of the third.
The Rascals used that momentum and doubled their lead in the frame. Brandon Thomas began the offensive stanza with his second of four hits on the night and came around to score after a stolen base and a RBI single from three-time Frontier League All-Star Josh Ludy.
Jason Merjano extended the lead to four two batters later with a RBI single that plated Johnny Morales.
However, the Miners retaliated with timely at-bats in the top of the fourth and pulled within one run. After a pair of walks issued by Hernandez, Ryan Lashley notched a RBI double and then a wild pitch and a RBI ground out from Craig Massoni scored two more runs.
The game remained 4-3 until the bottom of the fifth inning when the Rascals matched the opponent and retook their four run lead. Paul Kronenfeld was the hero of the frame with a two out, two RBI single and Braxton Martinez made it 7-3 via a RBI double.
The fifth inning was the final frame of the night for Sessions and he was tagged with his seventh loss of the year giving up seven runs, earned, on ten hits and walked three.
The Miners final run came on an error in the top of the sixth but Hernandez got out of the inning by inducing a groundout to Massoni with a runner in scoring position.
Hernandez earned the win, his eighth of the year and allowed four runs, three earned, on just two hits and struck out nine.
His nine strikeout game marks his third straight game with at least eight strikeouts and fifth of that mark in his past six outings.
The Rascals offense capped off their scoring in the bottom of the eighth inning with RBI hits from Brandon Thomas and Josh Ludy.
Thomas’s four hit game was his first of the year and Ludy’s big night put him at 98 hits and has two more games to reach 100 for the first time in his career.
The scenario is as follows: If the Rascals tie with just the Washington WildThings, the Rascals are eliminated. However, if the Rascals win out, the WildThings lose out, and the ThunderBolts win exactly one game, the Rascals would be in a three way tie and would win a mathematical round robin scenario.
“We are in our last few games here and we have to win every single one to stay alive,” Ludy said. “For a lot of us, this is our last year here and we are doing everything we can to fight for another day.”
Game number 95 of the season takes place Saturday night at CarShield Field.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. with righty Zeb Sneed on the mound.