Baseball: ThunderBolts shut down River City Rascals 5-0
With a series of long at-bats leading to an inflated pitch count early, it seemed Windy City ThunderBolts starter Matt Wickswat was in for a short night Friday.
Instead, Wickswat managed to take a shutout into the eighth inning and Jessie Snodgrass finished it from there as the T-Bolts won for the ninth time in 10 games with a 5-0 victory over the River City Rascals in front of 2,237 fans at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.
“I tried to pitch to contact early in at-bats and I think that really helped me out in the late innings,” Wickswat said. “All of my pitches were working, and the biggest thing was just getting ahead of hitters. Then Snodgrass and the defense really saved my butt.”
The T-Bolts (39-40) and Rascals (38-40) began the three-game series as two of the Frontier League’s hottest teams — River City had won five in a row — and both were desperate to keep their slim postseason hopes alive.
Windy City moved to within six games of Gateway for the final playoff spot with 17 games to go.
Wickswat (5-10) went seven-plus innings, throwing 111 pitches. He allowed five hits and walked three while striking five.
Short innings late, including a six-pitch sixth, allowed him to go deep into the game after his pitch count hit 74 in the fifth.
He ran into problems in the eighth, allowing two hits and a walk before departing with the bases loaded and no outs.
Snodgrass, though, got Phil Wunderlich to bounce into a 5-2-3 double play, finely executed by third baseman Ryan Soares and catcher Zach Aakhus.
Evan Crawford then sent a hard-hit grounder up the middle, but was robbed by shortstop Chase Tucker, who made a diving stop and threw to first for the final out.
Snodgrass pitched the ninth to finish off his first career save.
“The mentality coming in with the bases loaded is to pound the zone,” Snodgrass said. “That way they have to hit your pitch instead of falling behind where they can sit on something. I threw strikes and the defense made great plays.”
The T-Bolts got all the runs they would need when Kyle Robinson (2-for-4) hit his second home run of the season, a two-run shot, over the left-field wall in the second off River City starter Tommy Mendoza (4-6).
“I was trying to not do too much,” Robinson said. “The last series against Joliet, they were pitching me in a lot. I realized I have to be ready for that. (Mendoza) threw me a pitch in and I was able to connect.”
The T-Bolts added a run in the seventh as Soares (2-for-4) laid down a perfect bunt for a two-out RBI single. They got two more insurance runs on four eighth-inning singles. Jayce Ray and Evan Button (3-for-5) produced run-scoring hits.
Aakhus continued to be hot at the plate, going 3-for-4.
“Every day we come to the park focused on winning and making the playoffs,” Wickswat said. “No one wants to go home early.”