By Bill Smith
LOVES PARK, Ill. — After being swept on the road by the Schaumburg Boomers for a second consecutive weekend, the Rockford RiverHawks opened a six-game homestand with victories in the first two games of a three-game series against the Evansville Otters.
Rockford fell 5-4 to Schaumburg Monday, June 25, as the Boomers rallied for three runs in the sixth inning off Cody Hallahan and Kyle Schepel. Hallahan (1-4) got the loss on the mound, giving up four earned runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched. Jet Butler went 2-for-4 with his fifth home run of the season in the loss.
Seven Rockford hitters had multiple-hit games Wednesday, June 27 , and the Rockford RiverHawks beat the Evansville Otters 14-8 in the series opener at RiverHawks Stadium.
The RiverHawks matched a season high with 17 hits, last achieved in a 16-5 win over Southern Illinois June 10.
The RiverHawks got on the board in the third inning on RBI hits by Javier Herrera and Michael Hur, and Matt Greener hit a two-run single to put Rockford up 4-0. In the following inning, Carlos Luciano belted a three-run home run, his second homer of the season, to give the RiverHawks a 7-0 advantage. Luciano was 3-for-5 to raise his average to .390.
Matt Crim (0-5) was credited with the loss, giving up six earned runs on nine hits in four innings pitched.
Rockford starter Drew Rucinski was perfect through four innings, but Evansville closed the gap to 7-4 with a four-run fifth inning, highlighted by Andrew Kuhn’s two-run homer.
Rucinski (3-1) earned the win for Rockford, giving up four runs in five innings of work.
The RiverHawks scored twice in the bottom of the sixth, but the Otters scored four times in the seventh inning to close the gap to 9-8, highlighted by Taylor Black’s three-run double off Garrett Granitz after Andrew Armstrong walked the bases loaded.
Rockford bounced back in the bottom half of the inning with two runs on a two-out error by shortstop Luis Parache, his third of the game. Rockford added three more runs in the eighth inning to extend the lead to 14-8.
Greener went 3-for-5 with three RBIs for Rockford, and Herrera was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Thursday, June 27, Herrera became the first player in team history to hit for the cycle, going 5-for-5 with a homer and seven RBIs to lead the Rockford RiverHawks to a 13-8 lead over the Evansville Otters.
Herrera singled in the bottom of the first inning, and his two-out, three-run triple in the bottom of the second inning gave the RiverHawks a 5-3 lead.
Herrera also singled in the fourth inning, and with Rockford holding an 8-5 lead in the fifth inning, Herrera connected on a three-run double down the left field line to extend the lead to 11-5.
He finished off the cycle in dramatic fashion, taking a 2-2 pitch from reliever Tyree Hayes out to left field for a solo home run, his fifth of the season, to extend the Rockford lead to 13-7.
Herrera’s five hits tied a RiverHawks’ single-game record last accomplished by Jason James against Evansville June 22, 2009. His seven RBIs also matched a Rockford single-game record last accomplished by Brandon Cohen against Evansville Aug. 5, 2009.
“He was locked in every at-bat,” Manager Rich Austin said. “He came in in key situations and got clutch hits and put good swings on the ball.”
Herrera’s night boosted his average 32 points from .358 to .390. He has five home runs and 38 RBIs in 37 games.
The Otters set a season high with 16 hits, and the RiverHawks had 14 of their own. Rockford’s Rudy Wilson went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. The two teams combined for seven errors in the game.
Rockford ace Mike Lee (3-0) picked up the win, giving up two earned runs in five innings and striking out nine batters, the third straight start he has fanned nine.
Bryce Morrow (2-4) picked up the loss for Evansville. Runey Davis and Black both homered in the loss for the Otters.
The RiverHawks improved to 14-23 on the season and have won two in a row.
Rockford added pitchers Jack Crawford and Artie Clyde and released Eric Rohe and Jordan Liette.
The RiverHawks remain at home to host the Joliet Slammers June 30-July 2 (results unavailable at press time). They hit the road to play the Washington Wild Things July 3-5, before returning home to host the Gateway Grizzles July 6-8. The All-Star Break is July 9-12.
From the July 4-10, 2012, issue