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Baseball: Akins has finishing touch in Slammers victory over ThunderBolts

Joliet Slammers catcher KolConner applies late tag as Ryan Soares Thunderbolts scores run. | JCunningham~For Sun-Times Media

Joliet Slammers catcher Kolin Conner applies a late tag as Ryan Soares of the Thunderbolts scores a run. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 6, 2013 9:44AM



Nick Akins has crushed most of his team-leading 15 home runs for the Joliet Slammers, including a walk-off grand slam before the All-Star break.

But all it took Sunday for the Slammers to end their four-game losing streak was Akins’ soft single to left in the bottom of the ninth that scored Niko Vasquez from second for a 5-4 victory over the Windy City ThunderBolts at Silver Cross Field.

“That was huge, coming off a losing streak,’’ said Akins, whose hit resembled some of what the Slammers had endured while losing six of their previous seven games.

“Teams we’ve been playing were finding a way to poke balls out past the infield or dribble balls through the infield and drive in runs. It seemed everything we squared up was right at somebody. We got some help today.’’

Part of that “help” was a throwing error by Windy City shortstop Chase Tucker that put Vasquez at first base with one out in the ninth.

“You let baserunners get on whether it’s walks or errors, sometimes comes back to haunt you, which it did,’’ Windy City manager Ron Biga said.

Marquis Riley (3-for-5, run, 2 RBI) followed the error with a base hit off Reese McGraw (0-3). Akins then singled and Vasquez slid home under a high throw for the winning run.

“It’s been rough the last couple games,’’ Riley said. “It just felt like we couldn’t get anything to go our way. We finally got some balls to fall.

“We’ve been hitting balls hard right at people. Then the other team comes up, two-out bloop singles. That’s been beating us. It was kind of on our side here.’’

Slammers starter Shawn Kale (61/3 innings, 7 hits, 2 earned runs) got relief help from Lucas Goodgion, Brett Zawacki, Ryan Hartman and Justin Erasmus (3-1), who retired one batter for the win.

Windy City starter Dyllon Nuernberg (2 innings, 3 hits, 3 walks, 3 earned runs) pitched into the third inning before he was lifted because of an upset stomach.

“He gave us what he could,’’ Biga said. “Something he ate or stomach flu. He was definitely exhausted.’’

Windy City (30-38) tied it 4-all with two runs in the sixth. Zach Aakhus had an RBI double and Lewis University product Andrew Brauer singled in Aakhus.

The Slammers (29-39) had taken advantage of a throwing error to help push across four runs in the third inning and go ahead 4-2.

Joe Meggs (single) and Darian Sandford (bunt hit) started off the inning and Vasquez reached on a throwing error by Nuernberg that scored Meggs. Riley followed with a two-run double and Grant DeBruin had an RBI groundout after two walks.

The series finale at 7:05 p.m. Monday will match two left-handers: Windy City’s Matt Wickswat (4-9, 4.82 ERA) against Joliet’s Chuck Lofgren (5-5, 3.66 ERA).

“We were getting to the point if we lost a couple more, we would have been out of it,’’ Riley said. “Now we get a chance to take the series and hopefully build on that.’’



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