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Baseball: Gateway Grizzlies too much for Slammers

Greg Billo rears back make pitch his Slammers debut. | Tim Tierney/For Sun-Times Media

Greg Billo rears back to make a pitch in his Slammers debut. | Tim Tierney/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 28, 2014 9:08PM



The Joliet Slammers haven’t had any trouble scoring runs lately, but they’ve seen a parade of opposing baserunners in the past week.

While Joliet scored 25 runs in a midweek road series against River City, the Rascals put across a whopping 39 runs to take two of three from the Slammers.

“I always tell these guys, ‘You have a bad game, you’ve got to erase everything and get ready to go the next day,’ ’’ Joliet manager Jeff Isom said.

The Slammers fell behind early Friday night in their Frontier League series opener against Gateway and suffered an 8-3 loss to the West Division leader in front of a crowd of 3,286 at Silver Cross Field.

Starting pitcher Greg Billo struggled in his Slammers debut. The 23-year-old right-hander, a 2008 Sandburg graduate and former Kansas City Royals farmhand, gave up eight hits and four runs in just 21/3 innings.

Gateway put the game out of reach with a run in the sixth and a three-run seventh to take an 8-1 lead.

The Grizzlies had scored in the first and second innings and twice in the third to go ahead 4-0. Former Slammer Niko Vasquez homered in the first inning.

The Slammers made it 4-1 in the fifth when Danny Hernandez doubled to the left-field wall to score Jose Garcia, who had walked.

A line-drive single by Marquis Riley in the second inning was the only hit by the Slammers until the double by Hernandez.

“He’s got a hitter’s gene,’’ Isom said of Riley, a 2013 Frontier League All-Star. “He can get the barrel on the ball.’’

Adam Giacalone saved the Slammers from getting swept against River City with a three-run, eighth-inning homer in Thursday’s 11-8 road victory.

Giacalone has hit from the start of the season, batting .333 in the first nine games to help the Slammers open with a 5-4 record.

“He can hit with power. He’s not going to hit 20, 30 home runs,’’ Isom said of Giacalone. “He’s going to hit doubles and 10, maybe 15 home runs, and hit for average. He’s a .300 hitter and he’s showing that with us.

“The middle of the lineup, you’ve got (Russell) Moldenhauer, (Grant) DeBruin, Giacalone. Put Marquis in the five hole, you’ve got four guys hitting over .300. Add (Chris) Epps. As soon as we get Garcia going, we’ve got a lot of good things in our lineup.’’

The middle game of the series is at 6:05 p.m. Saturday at Silver Cross Field. Northern Illinois product Jake Hermsen (1-0, 3.69 ERA) will start for Joliet.



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