By Bill Smith
LOVES PARK, Ill. — The Rockford RiverHawks returned from the All-Star break by taking two of three games on the road from the Evansville Otters July 13-15.
The two teams had met previously at RiverHawks Stadium June 27-29, with the teams combining to score 70 runs, but this was not the case this time around. The Otters won the opener Friday, July 13, by the score of 3-1.
Rockford’s Cody Hallahan and Evansville’s Adam Champion both allowed only one run across six innings, but the Otters broke through for a run in the seventh inning off Andrew Armstrong on an RBI double by Taylor Black.
Rockford threatened with two on and two outs in the top of the eighth inning, but Eric Massingham came in to strike out Michael Hur and end the inning. Evansville added an insurance run in the bottom half on an RBI double by Schwaner to extend the lead to 3-1. Massingham pitched a perfect ninth inning to preserve the victory and pick up his Frontier League-leading 13th save of the year.
Tyree Hayes (2-2) earned the win, pitching 1 2/3 innings in relief. Armstrong (1-1) was saddled with the loss.
In the second game of the series Saturday, July 14, Kyle Schepel (2-1) scattered three hits and two walks over five scoreless innings, and the RiverHawks held on for a 4-2 victory over the Otters.
In Schepel’s two starts since joining the rotation July 5, he has yielded just one run and struck out 12 batters in 11 innings pitched. In seven overall appearances since joining the team, he has allowed just two earned runs and struck out 26 batters over 26 1/3 innings pitched, good for a microscopic 0.68 ERA.
The RiverHawks scored twice in the third inning off starter Wynn Pelzer (0-1) and never trailed in the game. With two outs, Javier Herrera walked, and Jet Butler followed by singling to center field, and Evansville center fielder Matt Sheely misplayed the hit and allowed Herrera to score all the way from first base to give Rockford a 1-0 lead. Butler advanced all the way to third on the two-base error, and Hur followed with a run-scoring base hit to make the lead 2-0.
Rockford extended the lead to 4-0 on an RBI single by Evan Button and RBI double by Butler.
After pitching two scoreless innings in relief, Nelson Curry loaded the bases full of Otters in the ninth inning with no one out, but Garrett Granitz limited the damage to just two runs to preserve the 4-2 win and earn his second save of the year.
In the series finale, Devin Shepherd’s go-ahead sacrifice fly in the 10th inning lifted the RiverHawks to an 8-7 10-inning win and series victory over the host Evansville Otters.
Trailing 5-3 into the seventh inning, the RiverHawks surged ahead with four runs in the inning to go ahead 7-5. Ted Obregon’s game-tying two-run single knotted the score at 5-5, and he would later score on a throwing error by Black at second base attempting to keep a Button single in the infield. Butler’s RBI double scored Button, and extended the lead to 7-5.
The Otters answered with one in the bottom half and tied the game on a passed ball by Greg Van Horn in the eighth inning. Rockford’s Mickey Cassidy worked out of a two-out jam in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings.
In the 10th inning, Hur led off with a double off Hayes and advanced to third base on a Mike Thomas sacrifice bunt. Shepherd followed with the sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Hur.
Hayes (2-3) earned the loss, and Cassidy (1-1) 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to get the win.
The RiverHawks now own a 21-29 record. Beginning July 16, Rockford will play 13 of their next 16 games at home. From July 16 to 18, the RiverHawks host the River City Rascals. They then play host to the Traverse City Beach Bums, leaders of the Frontier League East, from July 19 to 21.
After a brief three-game road trip at the Gateway Grizzlies from July 22 to 24, the RiverHawks host the Normal CornBelters from July 25 to 27, with a doubleheader July 25 as the result of a rainout earlier in the season. The RiverHawks wrap up the homestand by hosting the Schaumburg Boomers July 28-30.
From the July 18-24, 2012, issue