By Bill Smith
LOVES PARK, Ill. — The Rockford RiverHawks took two of three games from the Gateway Grizzles at home, but lost two of three on the road at Normal and fell in the first two games at Schaumburg.
The losses dropped the RiverHawks to 12-22 overall, 9-8 at home and 3-14 on the road. Rockford now stands in last place in the Frontier League’s West Division, 9 1/2 games behind the Schaumburg Boomers.
Rockford beat Gateway 5-1 at RiverHawks Stadium Monday, June 18, as they did their damage in the middle innings. Michael Hur hit an RBI single to put Rockford up 1-0 in the fourth inning, and Jet Butler hit his fourth homer of the season, a three-run blast, to extend the lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning. Ziggie VanderWall picked up his third win of the season, pitching six innings of scoreless ball.
The RiverHawks were unable to complete the series sweep the following night, falling 9-3. Gateway catcher Landon Hernandez hit a first-inning grand slam and finished the game 2-for-4 with six RBIs to lead the Grizzlies to victory. Rockford’s Jordan Liette picked up the loss in his second professional start, giving up five runs in only three innings of work. Greg Van Horn went 2-for-4 with an RBI for the RiverHawks.
Rockford hit the road to open a three-game series with the Normal CornBelters beginning Wednesday, June 20. In the first game, the two teams combined for only eight hits, but it was the Cornbelters who would prevail 1-0, scoring the game’s only run on an RBI groundout by Steven Felix in the seventh inning. Rockford would threaten with back-to-back two-out singles in the ninth inning by Greg Van Horn and Daniel Gonzalez, but Evan Button would ground out to second base to end the game. Cody Hallahan pitched a complete game for the RiverHawks, and Ted Obregon was 2-for-2 with two stolen bases.
Rockford fell 3-2 the following night as they were unable to capitalize with the bases loaded and none out in the eighth inning. The CornBelters tied the game in the sixth inning on a Felix homer and took the lead in the seventh on a run-scoring double by Tyler Wiesemeyer, but the RiverHawks loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth on a pair of walks and an error. However, they failed to plate a run and went in order in the ninth inning to lose their third consecutive game.
In the series finale, the RiverHawks won 7-6 in 12 innings despite blowing a five-run lead late in the game. The CornBelters trailed 6-1 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, but they scored three times in that inning and twice in the ninth to send the game to extra innings. Rockford finally broke through for a run in the 12th inning, and Theron Minium pitched two scoreless innings of relief to pick up the win. Javier Herrera went 4-for-6 with three RBI.
The RiverHawks traveled to Schaumburg for a second consecutive weekend to face the Boomers after being swept last weekend. In the opener, the Boomers prevailed 8-5, scoring three times in the eighth inning off reliever Garrett Granitz to break a 5-5 tie. Rockford’s Carlos Luciano went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, and Mike Thomas was 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Sunday, June 24, the RiverHawks fell 15-10 to the Boomers as an early 15-0 deficit ultimately sealed their fate. Starter Liette only retired one batter and gave up seven earned runs. Hur went 3-for-5 and hit his team-leading eighth homer of the season, and Thomas stayed hot by going 3-for-5 with five RBI.
Mike Lee’s 2.20 ERA is good for third-best in the Frontier League, while Herrera’s .362 average is second-best in the league. Hur’s eight home runs are tied for fifth-best in the league.
Rockford wraps up their road trip and has an off day before returning home for a six-game homestand, hosting the Evansville Otters from June 27-29 and the Joliet Slammers from June 30-July 2.
The RiverHawks are members of the Frontier League, an independent professional baseball league in its 20th season. Games are broadcast on NTA-FM (100.5). Advertising and ticket information is available by calling (815) 885-2255. Fans can also visit www.rockfordriverhawks.com.
From the June 27-July 3, 2012, issue