By Bill Smith
LOVES PARK, Ill. — While the Rockford RiverHawks have faded from playoff contention over the past month, they continued to play close games as they dropped two of three games in their return home against the Florence Freedom and took two of three games while visiting the Normal CornBelters.
In the series opener against Florence Tuesday, Aug. 14, the RiverHawks rallied from an eight-run deficit for an improbable walkoff 11-10 win. Trailing 10-2 in the sixth inning, Rockford scored four runs in the sixth and four more in the eighth to tie the game at 10-10.
Rockford loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and Greg Van Horn lined a single to left field to give the RiverHawks the come-from-behind win. The win marked the third time this season Rockford overcame a deficit of seven or more runs to win.
Mickey Cassidy (3-2) pitched a scoreless inning in relief and got the win, while Brennan Flick (6-2) did not record an out and got the loss.
The following night, the RiverHawks stranded 11 runners on base and went just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position in a 5-2 loss. Pierre LaPage’s two-out RBI single in the first inning put the visitors ahead for good. All five of their runs came after two outs.
Freedom starter Brandon Mathes (3-0) allowed just one earned run on eight hits and struck out eight in eight strong innings to earn the win. Cody Hallahan (5-7) surrendered two runs in six innings in a losing effort.
In the series finale Thursday, Aug. 16, a key defensive blunder allowed Florence to score the go-ahead run and top Rockford 6-5.
Florence faced a 5-4 sixth inning deficit, but loaded the bases with no outs in the frame. David Harris tied the game at 5-5 with a sacrifice fly, and Junior Arrojo followed by bouncing a ball to Justino Cuevas, who flipped to Ted Obregon for a force at second base. Obregon attempted to hold up from throwing to first base in a double play attempt, but he released the ball, and it snuck past Evan Button, allowing John Malloy to score the go-ahead run.
The RiverHawks threatened in the late innings but were unable to break through to tie the game.
Kyle Schepel (3-5) lost his fourth-straight decision as he gave up five earned runs over six innings. Brad Allen (1-1) struck out four in 2 2/3 innings in relief to earn the win, and Jorge Marban shut the door to earn his eighth save of the year.
Rockford faced the Normal CornBelters beginning Friday, Aug. 17, and in the opener, Drew Provence (5-2) tossed six innings of one-run ball to lead the CornBelters to a 6-1 win.
Normal had a big four-run fifth inning, capped off by a Patrick McKenna two-run home run.
Drew Rucinski (6-3) lost his second straight decision, giving up three runs in 4 1/3 innings.
The following night, the RiverHawks rallied for five runs in the ninth inning and went on to win 5-1.
Normal starter Tyler Lavigne was working on a shutout into the ninth inning, but Mike Thomas singled in Justino Cuevas to tie the game and later scored on a Michael Hur two-out, go-ahead single. Matt Greener added an RBI single and Jet Butler’s two-run double made it 5-1.
Ziggie VanderWall (7-5) scattered a run on four hits in eight innings of work, the longest start of his professional career. Lavigne (5-8) struck out nine batters in the loss.
Rockford took the series with a 4-3 win in the finale Sunday, Aug. 19. Trevor Whyte’s sixth-inning sacrifice fly put the RiverHawks ahead for good.
Nick Anderson (1-3) earned his first professional win as he allowed three runs over seven frames. Jacob Liedka (2-11) got the loss, giving up four runs in six innings.
Garrett Granitz picked up his 10th save of the season with a scoreless ninth inning.
The RiverHawks have a 36-48 record, fifth place in the Frontier League West. Rockford returns home to open a three-game series with the Washington Wild Things beginning Aug. 21. The RiverHawks continue the homestand Aug. 24-26 with a series with the Schaumburg Boomers.
From the Aug. 22-28, 2012, issue