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Baseball: ThunderBolts turn back Rockford Aviators 7-4

ThunderBolts shortstop Michael Torres tags out Rockford's Kenny Bryant. |  John Booz~For Sun-Times Media

ThunderBolts shortstop Michael Torres tags out Rockford's Kenny Bryant. | John Booz~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: July 24, 2013 6:52AM



Nine games into a 15-game homestand, the longest in franchise history, the Windy City ThunderBolts found themselves just 4-5.

So as the fourth of five straight three-game series at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood began Friday night, they knew it was vital to pile up some wins before hitting the road next weekend.

Friday was a good start, as the T-Bolts scored five times in the first two innings on their way to a 7-4 win over a struggling Rockford Aviators club in front of a season-high 3,272 fans.

“It was a big win,” Windy City center fielder Nate Pittman said. “We’ve got to get back on track and hopefully get a winning streak going. It’s always easier at home, so we want to finish this strong.”

Pittman, who is hitting .357 — primarily in the leadoff spot — in nine games with the T-Bolts (12-20), reached base in his first four plate appearances Friday, with two singles, a walk and a hit by pitch.

He got the home team started with a leadoff single in the bottom of the first and scored on Mike Torres’ triple down the right-field line. Torres came in on Ryan Soares’ groundout and the T-Bolts had a 2-0 lead just three batters in.

Rockford (6-24) committed two errors in the second and Windy City took advantage, scoring three times. Pittman and Louie Templeton (3-for-4, 2 RBI) produced run-scoring base hits.

Windy City made it 6-0 in the third as Adam Davis (2-for-5) doubled and scored on Templeton’s single.

“Any time you can score runs early it’s huge,” T-Bolts manager Ron Biga said. “It takes a little pressure off everybody.”

Windy City starter Daniel Cropper got through the first four innings unscathed before Rockford touched him for four runs in the fifth as Michael Hur, Matt Greener and Kenny Bryant produced consecutive RBI hits.

Cropper (4-1), though, earned his fourth straight win. He allowed four earned runs on seven hits in six innings.

Jessie Snodgrass and Rey Cotilla each tossed a scoreless inning of relief for the T-Bolts before Michael Click finished off Rockford in the ninth for his fourth save.

“This is what I expect from our bullpen,” Biga said. “That other night (Wednesday, when the bullpen gave up nine runs in four innings in a loss to Florence), there must have been a full moon or zombies or something.”

Andrew Brauer singled, stole second and scored on a base hit from newcomer John Clark to close the scoring in the sixth.

Before the game, Windy City signed pitcher Colin O’Connell — formerly of the Oakland Athletics’ organization — and rookie infielder Clark. Clark, who recently finished his senior season at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, was the designated hitter Friday.



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