ThunderBolts come through in the clutch
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media June 24, 2012 9:54PM
Chad Cregar, of the ThunderBolts. | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 26, 2012 6:13AM
For the second straight night, the Windy City ThunderBolts used one big inning to get the best of the rival Joliet Slammers.
The T-Bolts, who scored four times in the third inning Sunday, jumped out to a 5-0 lead before holding off a Joliet comeback in a 5-4 win in front of 2,223 fans at Standard Bank Stadium in Crestwood.
Windy City (20-13) won for the fourth straight time and improved to 4-1 against the Slammers this season and 12-5 all-time against Joliet, the 2011 Frontier League champions.
Joliet fell to 16-19.
“We’re putting the pieces together,” said T-Bolts second baseman Mike Torres, who had two hits. “We’ve had a lot of new guys come in, they’re all here to work and they all want to win. We’re getting chemistry.”
Clutch hits with runners in scoring position have been lacking most of the season for Windy City, but not in the third inning, when four consecutive two-out hits produced four runs off Joliet starter Tommy Mendoza.
Brandon Pearl (walk) scored on Torres’ single. After Chris Wade followed with a base hit, he and Torres pulled off a double steal. Chad Cregar (2-for-4) drove both in with a single up the middle, and Cregar scored on Jareck West’s triple for a 4-0 lead.
“(Mendoza) threw me a first-pitch fastball and he had been flipping offspeed all day,” Cregar said. “I knew he wouldn’t come back with another fastball so I sat on a changeup and I got it.
“That inning was amazing. In the past, (two-out hitting) has been our Achilles’ heel. That inning ended up being the big difference.”
Bob Glover had another big two-out hit for Windy City in the fourth, doubling home Zach Aakhus (single) to increase the lead to 5-0.
Joliet got on the board in the fifth. Josh Lyon (2-for-4) led off with a single, moved to second on Kyle Maunus’ walk, took third on a Trey Manz sacrifice bunt and scored on Brad Netzel’s groundout. Jimmy Waters’ RBI single made it 5-2.
A one-out walk to Trey Manz in the seventh ended the night for T-Bolts starter Blayne Weller. Netzel and pinch-hitter Sean Estand followed with consecutive singles off reliever Matt Costello and Manz scored on Zach Mandelblatt’s groundout.
Andy Mee struck out Hector Pellot to strand the tying run at second.
Weller (1-0) allowed three earned runs on three hits in 61/3 innings. He struck out three and walked five.
Aside from the third-inning struggles, Mendoza (3-3) was solid. He went six innings, allowing five earned runs on eight hits while striking out six and walking one.
Joliet’s Abel Nieves (2-for-3) doubled and scored on Lyon’s single in the eighth to make it 5-4.
Joliet could not mount any offense in the ninth, however, as Lansing native Shane Zegarac worked a perfect inning for his fourth save.
The Slammers shook up their lineup, with leading hitter Nieves’ move from second to fifth the biggest change. Joliet’s offense showed some signs of life but didn’t produce enough for manager Bart Zeller.
“I don’t get excited when we lose just because we came close,” he said. “I’m tired of tipping my hat to pitchers. We’re not hitting and I don’t think it’s because of dominant pitching.
“We’re going to keep making changes until we find the lineup that will work.”
The teams will conclude the three-game series at 10:35 a.m. Monday. Jim Schult is set to start for Joliet. Windy City’s starter had not been announced.
Before the game, the T-Bolts signed first baseman T.J. McManus. A Glenview native, McManus led Eastern Illinois in hitting this spring with a .358 average. He had nine home runs and 49 RBI. Windy City placed first baseman Andy Chriscaden on the suspended list.