O’FALLON, Mo. — One game is nothing. Anything can happen. In a sports world now obsessed with sample size, one-game samples are laughed at. But that’s where we are. The Rascals have one game to decide their championship fate. The River City Rascals will take on the Evansville Otters at Bosse Field in the fifth and final game of the Frontier League Championship Series. To even get to the fifth game, River City had to win Game 4 on Sunday at home. The Rascals survived to fight another day by jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the first inning and hanging on for the 7-5 win.
Two batters in things looked a little shaky. The Otters’ Josh Allen took a 1-0 pitch from Dan Ludwig up and out to give Evansville a 1-0 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, River City responded. A one-out double by Johnny Morales started the rally. The Rascals loaded the bases on Matt Wivinis thanks to a walk and a single. Then Wivinis had a mini self-implosion. Kyle Gaedele got an RBI via a full-count walk. Jason Merjano got an RBI the hard way with a hit-by-pitch. Josh Silver scored from third on a wild pitch, and then Mike Jurgella scored Gaedele with a single. Freeman gave the Rascals a 5-1 lead with a sac fly that was deep enough into center field to score Merjano.
The teams matched each other with a run apiece in the second and fourth. The Otters cut the lead to two with a run in the fifth and eighth, but ultimately Rascals closer Zac Treece slammed the door yet again, this time with a four-out save. The go-ahead run came to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, but Treece got Allen –who homered in the first– to fly out and leave two on base. The five River City pitchers stranded 10 Otters total.
Josh Silver and Mike Jurgella led the Rascals at the plate with 3-for-4, 1 RBI days. Kyle Gaedele was the only Rascal to drive in two runs.
This is the closest River City has come to winning the Frontier League’s ultimate prize since their last win in 2010. The Joliet Slammers spoiled a chance to repeat with a 3-1 series win. They have made it to the final series the last three seasons. In 2014, River City fell 3-1 to the Schaumburg Boomers . Last year, they were swept by the Traverse City Beach Bums. They are one game from being either the Buffalo Bills or the St. Louis Cardinals.
We find out tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. CT with a perfect night for baseball forecasted in Evansville. The Rascals will send out Zeb Sneed. The Otters will counter with Hunter Ackerman. Sneed is yet to throw in the series and hasn’t pitched in 10 days. Ackerman was on the losing end of Tim Koons’ one-hit shutout win in Game 2. He will be on normal rest.
Follow @TimJKaiser on twitter for live updates as the Rascals play for the Frontier League Championship tonight.