Big day for Aakhus in ThunderBolts’ victory
The Windy City ThunderBolts took a lot of frustration out on the Southern Illinois Miners on Sunday night.
Zach Aakhus drove in five runs and Daniel Cropper tossed eight shutout innings as the T-Bolts salvaged the final contest of the three-game series and snapped a three-game losing streak with an 8-0 win at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.
“Every game from here on out is huge,” Aakhus said. “We’ve dug ourselves a hole and it’s important to take every game seriously. It’s hard to say that this was a must-win in June, but that’s almost what it was.”
Windy City (10-18) jumped all over Brian Oliver, the starter for Southern Illinois (14-13), in the first. Nate Pittman and Mike Torres drew walks before Aakhus drove a 3-2 pitch deep to center for a two-run double.
“(T-Bolts manager Ron) Biga asked me what I wanted to do and I felt good about not bunting because I knew I was going to get a fastball,” Aakhus said. “He didn’t want to walk another hitter. If he threw me an offspeed, I was going to tip my hat to him. I got a fastball and just tried to go with it.”
Aakhus came home on Andrew Brauer’s single as Brauer (2-for-4) produced a first-inning RBI for the second straight day. Louis Templeton’s run-scoring single made it 4-0.
That was more than enough for Cropper, who took a no-hitter into the sixth before giving up a leadoff single to Cannon Lester.
Cropper (3-1) gave up three hits and walked one in eight innings while striking out five.
“Starting a big homestand like this (15-game) one, you don’t ever want to get swept,” Cropper said. “This was a huge win.
“I went out and got ahead on fastballs and my changeup was really good.”
Cropper hopes his strong outing will lift the rest of the rotation.
“I hope it gets momentum going for everyone,” he said. “As a pitching staff, you always want to be competitive with each other, not just the other team.”
The T-Bolts tacked on a run with three singles in the second, Pittman scoring on Aakhus’ base hit. Templeton walked and scored on an error in the sixth for a 6-0 lead.
Aakhus closed the scoring and ended his big day by blasting his second home run of the year, a two-run shot to left, in the eighth.
Ryan Soares also had a strong night for Windy City, going 3-for-5.
“Cropper was outstanding,” Biga said. “He worked both sides of the plate and he absolutely did the job.
“We just have to show up to the park ready to play the way we did (Sunday) every night.”