Evan Crawford had two hits and scored two runs, while five pitchers worked into and around all types of trouble Wednesday night at Wuerfel Park in Traverse City, Mich., to lead the visiting River City Rascals to a 3-2 win over the Traverse City Beach Bums.
River City, which won just eight of 26 games in June and fell to fifth place in the Frontier League West Division standings, won its second straight to begin the month of July, thanks to some timely hitting, another night of clutch pitching, and a bit of daring baserunning by the former Chicago Cub farmhand Crawford.
In his first at-bat to lead off the second inning, lined a shot into the gap in right field that seemed like a sure double, but nothing more off the bat.
But Crawford was practically at full speed right out of the batter’s box and challenged the Traverse City outfield to throw him out at third, where he made it with ease, just ahead of Beach Bum center fielder D’Marcus Ingram’s throw.
Crawford then scored on a RBI groundout by teammate Curran Redal to get the Rascals their first lead at 1-0.
Traverse City tied the score in the fourth, on a two-out double by right fielder Sean Gusrang, who drove in teammate Zach Komentani, who had just reached on a two-out single off River City starter Justin Sarratt.
River City moved ahead for good in the fifth, when Redal led off with a double then came around to score on a double by teammate Danny Canela to make it 2-1.
The Rascals then got a critical insurance run in the seventh, when Crawford beat out an infield single and advanced all the way to third on an infield single by pinch hitter Andrew Foulk, before scoring on a passed ball by Traverse City catcher Marcus Nidiffer.
That River City run became important when Komentani drove in Traverse City’s second run with a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth.
The key play of the game though, may have come on the next pitch, when Foulk, who stayed in the game to catch for Canela, threw out Traverse City’s Carlo Testa trying to steal second to end the inning.
Rascal closer Gabriel Shaw struck out the side in the ninth to preserve the win and pick up his team-leading 10th save of the season.
Sarratt (2-5) ended a streak of five straight personal losses to get the win — his first since May 18 — by allowing just one Traverse City run and four hits over five innings, while striking out four and walking three.
Relievers Patrick Crider and Chandler Jagodzinski each threw a scoreless inning, and Nick Kennedy went an inning but allowed a run to help River City claim its first road series win since the first series of the season in Florence, Ky., back in mid-May.
The Rascals are now 17-23 on the season, and have moved up to fourth place — 10 games behind the first-place Gateway Grizzlies — but a half-game ahead of the fifth place Joliet Slammers.
Despite the loss, Traverse City (25-16) was able to stay tied for first in the East, with the Florence Freedom, which also lost its game on Wednesday.
River City will play its final game of the season at Wuerfel Park on Thursday, with Brett Harman getting the start for the Rascals and Mike Devine doing the same for the Beach Bums.
Following the game, River City will travel south down to Schaumburg, Ill., for a three-game weekend series against the second-place Schaumburg Boomers.