As they hit the midway point of Tuesday night’s Frontier League baseball showdown at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O’Fallon, with the visiting Southern Illinois Miners, the River City Rascals were looking like a team surely headed for a bad night.
The Miners were ahead 5-0, were responsible for the only excitement so far in the game — a first-inning grand slam home run by former Rascal Gerardo Avila — and had held the Rascals to just three hits to that point.
But then River City woke up, and powered by a four-hit night, including a pair of solo home runs by first baseman Phil Wunderlich, the Rascals scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth, and four runs apiece in the seventh and eighth innings to rally back and defeat the Miners, 10-5.
By the end of the night, River City had banged out 14 hits, with right fielder Evan Crawford (2-for-4), designated hitter Jake Atwell (3-for-4), and catcher Danny Canela (2-for-3) joining Wunderlich as players with multi-hit games.
But it was the former Tampa Bay Rays farmhand who got the Rascals going, with a deep blast over the wall in the right to make the score 5-1 Miners.
Two hits and an error later and River City had another run to make it 5-2.
In the seventh, Wunderlich led off with another shot over the wall in right — his team-leading fifth dinger of the season — which again sparked a Rascal rally.
This time, it was an error and three straight singles that produced the runs that tied the score, with Canela singling up the middle to bring in Atwell and Will Block to make it 5-5.
Another Southern Illinois error allowed recent signee and former St. Cloud State University standout Sean Borman to score his first run as a Rascal, which gave River City its first lead at 6-5.
In the eighth, Wunderlich notched his third extra-base hit of the game, when he doubled home Crawford, who led off with a single, then stole second and third to put himself in scoring position.
Then with two outs, Canela delivered the big blow of the night — as bases-clearing single that drove home three and gave the Rascals their final 10-5 edge.
Starting pitcher Casey Barnes overcame the first inning grand slam and held Southern Illinois to just five runs, but didn’t get the win because he was out of the game by the time River City took the lead.
Another recent Rascal signee, reliever Andy Urban (1-0), from the University of Central Missouri, got his first professional win, after throwing two scoreless innings and striking out two in his second appearance for River City.
Nick Kennedy got he final four outs of the game to nab his first save of the season.
Game 2 of the three-game set between the Rascals and Miners is slated for Wednesday night at T.R. Hughes.
First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m., with rookie righthander Craig Goodman (1-2, 3.42 ERA) scheduled to start for River City, and veteran righty and former Rascal Preston Vancil (3-1, 1.98 ERA) due to take the ball for Southern Illinois.