Quad Cities River Bandits left-hander Josh Hader struck out eight South Bend Silver Hawks in seven shutout innings, and his teammates built an early 4-0 lead that held for a 4-2 win and three-game sweep of the 2013 Midwest League Championship Series in front of 3,607 at Modern Woodmen Park Saturday night.
In the first year of a new affiliation with the Houston Astros, the River Bandits won the sixth title in Quad Cities franchise history and second in three seasons. Including the playoffs, Quad Cities won its final eight series, 18 of its final 21 games and 20 of its last 24.
One week after pitching a career-high seven innings and yielding just one run in his playoff debut, Hader (2-0) went the same distance but allowed only one baserunner past first. He erased a second-inning single with a double play, stranded singles in the fourth and sixth innings, and left his only walk on base in the seventh. The eight strikeouts were his most as a pitcher in the Houston Astros system.
For a third straight game against South Bend, the River Bandits scored first. Second baseman Tony Kemp, who had a game-high three hits and league-best 12 in eight postseason games, led off with a single to left field. Center fielder Teoscar Hernandez put down a sacrifice bunt, but right-hander Aaron Blair (2-1) threw past first base, allowing Kemp to score and Hernandez to reach third base. Left fielder Danry Vasquez singled down the first-base line to knock in Hernandez to make it 2-0.
In the second inning, third baseman Rio Ruiz hit Blair's first pitch out to left field for his third postseason home run - one in each series-clinching game against Cedar Rapids, Beloit and South Bend. Right fielder Jordan Scott added a single to right field, and Kemp drove him in with a double to left-center field, extending the lead to 4-0. Blair then set down eight straight, including five on strikeouts, until Kemp hit a one-out single in the fifth. Blair lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing all four runs - three earned - on six hits with seven strikeouts.
After Hader struck out at least one batter in each of his seven innings except the sixth, left-hander Mitchell Lambson started the eighth inning and struck out the first two batters he faced. Lambson issued a walk before a fielder's choice groundout ended the inning. The Silver Hawks bullpen allowed three walks but pitched 3 1/3 hitless innings.
In the ninth inning, right-hander Andrew Walter allowed a one-out single by third baseman Brandon Drury, and first baseman Rudy Flores hit a two-run home run down the right-field line - the first runs against Walter in the Midwest League and the first Silver Hawks runs in 23 innings. After second baseman Fidel Pena drew a walk, Walter got designated hitter Roidany Aguila to pop out to catcher Roberto Pena, and right fielder Mike Lang flied to center fielder Teoscar Hernandez for the final out of the Midwest League season.
Saturday's victory means The Captain's Table at 4801 River Drive in Moline will offer The Captain's Table Victory Discount on Sunday, Sept. 15. Anyone who mentions the River Bandits' victory can receive a free appetizer or dessert with the purchase of two lunches or dinners with beverages on Sunday, Sept. 15.
UP NEXT: Stay tuned to www.riverbandits.com for the 2014 schedule announcement. For 2014 season tickets, contact the River Bandits box office at Modern Woodmen Park, by phone at 563-324-3000 and online at www.riverbandits.com. Season ticket and mini-plan packages start at just seven games and begin at less than $50. Call a River Bandits account representative today to choose your seats and get the details of our various mini-plan packages.
ABOUT THE BANDITS: The River Bandits ownership is making one of the biggest improvements to Modern Woodmen Park since the ballpark was first built back in 1931! A new Ferris wheel, standing 112 feet over the playing field, is planned for next spring, along with a carousel and other new games and attractions. This season, the team just unveiled a new 300-foot long dual zip line, a rock climbing wall, and a number of new bounce houses. The team's major league affiliate, the Houston Astros, just saw all six of its affiliates reach the playoffs - the first time in a decade any MLB team can claim such success. The River Bandits were one of three affiliates to reach the championship round and one of two affiliates to win their league championships.