By Bill Smith
LOVES PARK, Ill. — The Rockford RiverHawks improved to four games below .500 and seemed poised to make a strong second-half push following a series sweep of Traverse City from July 19-21, but they have a 4-5 record since that sweep and overall record of 30-35.
Rockford dropped the opener 8-5 to Gateway Sunday, July 22, and fell 12-6 the following night after the bullpen surrendered 11 runs in the seventh inning to the Grizzlies.
However, the RiverHawks bounced back to salvage a 7-5 victory in the series finale behind the bat of Michael Hur, who hit a pair of two-run home runs in the first and third innings. Starter Cody Hallahan yielded three runs in seven innings to improve to 4-5 on the season.
The RiverHawks returned home to face the Normal CornBelters for a three-day, four-game series because of a rainout May 31.
The series started with the two teams playing a pair of seven-inning games in a doubleheader Wednesday, July 25. In the opener, the RiverHawks trailed 5-3 into the bottom of the fifth inning, but they scored four runs in the frame off Daniel Britt, including Matt Greener’s go-ahead RBI double, and held on to win 7-6.
Hur hit his 14th homer of the season in the first inning, and Drew Rucinski (5-1) got the win despite allowing five runs on 12 hits in five innings.
In the nightcap, Normal’s Brendon Smith pitched five scoreless innings, and Ernie Banks Jr. hit a two-run double to lift the CornBelters to a 3-1 victory.
Smith (1-3) scattered two hits and struck out two to pick up his first win of the season in the spot start. Rockford’s Kyle Schepel (3-2) took the loss. He gave up three runs on 10 hits and struck out seven.
Evan Button hit a solo home run in the sixth inning off Kyle DiMartino, his sixth of the season.
Rich Mascheri pitched a scoreless final inning to save his seventh game of the year.
The following night, Normal got another strong pitching performance, this time by Drew Provence (2-1) as he yielded just one run and struck out seven in seven innings to lift the CornBelters to a 4-1 victory over the RiverHawks.
Ziggie VanderWall (5-4) was saddled with the loss, giving up three runs in six innings while striking out six.
Mascheri ran into trouble early in the ninth as Brandon Anderson doubled and Greg Van Horn was hit by a pitch, but Justino Cuevas hit into a 5-4-3 double play. Mascheri got Ted Obregon to ground out to end the game and pick up his eighth save.
Javier Herrera went 3-for-4 with an RBI for Rockford, and Anderson went 3-for-3. Newly-acquired infielder Cuevas, a former London Rippers player, went 2-for-4 with a run scored in his RiverHawks debut.
Friday, July 27, the CornBelters appeared to be on their way to taking three of four games in the series after jumping out to an early 7-0 lead, but Rockford scored five runs in the third inning and completed the comeback with five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull off a 10-9 victory.
In the eighth inning, Mike Thomas broke out of a 0-for-16 slump by connecting on a three-run double down the left-field line to tie the game at 8-8. Two batters later, Obregon followed with a two-out RBI single to give Rockford their first lead of the game.
Andrew Armstrong (2-2) earned the win in relief, and Josh Joseph (1-4) was saddled with the loss. Garrett Granitz got Steven Felix to fly out with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth to preserve the victory and his seventh save.
Saturday, July 28, the RiverHawks fell 3-1 in the series opener to the West Division-leading Schaumburg Boomers.
Rockford led 1-0 for most of the game, but committed two errors in the seventh that kept the inning alive and allowed Karexon Sanchez to connect on a three-run home run to give the Boomers the advantage and eventual victory.
The next night, the RiverHawks scored twice in the fourth inning and stretched their lead to 6-2 with three runs in the seventh before holding on for a 6-5 victory.
Hallahan (5-5) gave up two runs in five innings to win his fourth straight decision. Herrera went 2-for-3 with two RBIs to give him 60 on the season.
Following the completion of the series, the RiverHawks play 12 games in 13 days on the road from July 31 to Aug. 12, starting with a three-game series against the Lake Erie Crushers. Rockford also faces the Windy City ThunderBolts, Southern Illinois Miners and Joliet Slammers before returning home for a series with the Florence Freedom starting Aug. 14.
From the Aug. 1-7, 2012, issue