Clinton, IA - The Clinton LumberKings were victors for the fourth straight game after prevailing in a back-and-forth 7-6 win against the Quad Cities River Bandits Monday night. Quad Cities hammered out 15 hits to Clinton's seven, but clutch hitting with two outs proved to be the difference for the L'Kings at Ashford University Field.
L'Kings right-hander Edwin Diaz encountered trouble for the first time in four starts and still allowed just one earned run. The 20-year-old allowed single runs in both the first and second innings. In the first, the visiting River Bandits loaded the bases with no outs. Tanner Mathis doubled to right leading off, and Diaz issued back-to-back walks to James Ramsay and Tyler White. A controversial play ensued, in favor of Clinton. Cleanup hitter Conrad Gregor grounded to first baseman Jeff Zimmerman who threw to second for the force. Martin Peguero's turn to first was caught by Diaz covering, who appeared to miss first base. Instead, Field Umpire Matt Winter ruled Gregor out at first, resulting in a 3-6-1 double play. Diaz escaped the inning with another groundout.
Quad Cities got to Diaz again for a run in the second. Brian Holberton doubled off the wall in right and moved to third on Brett Phillips' bunt single. Moments later, catcher Marcus Littlewood caught Phillips leaning too far off first and threw behind him for a pickoff. Thomas Lindauer followed with a ground ball to Joe DeCarlo at third who fired to Littlewood at the plate ahead of Holberton. But Littlewood dropped the throw, allowing Holberton to score which doubled QC's lead, 2-0.
Clinton's aggressive approach against left-hander Evan Grills paid off in the third inning. Justin Seager grounded a one-out single to right, and moved to third on Zach Shank's double inside the right-field chalk line with two outs. Up came the hot-hitting Littlewood, who drilled the first pitch he saw over the fence in left for a 3-run homer.
Seeking his second win of the season, Diaz came up short. The righty left with one out in the fifth after allowing two one-out singles. Southpaw Leoncio Munoz limited the damage, however, inducing two fly outs.
The LumberKings added to their lead in the sixth. Burt Reynolds was hit by pitch with one out and swiped second. With two outs, Austin Wilson and DeCarlo drew back-to-back walks, loading the bases. Zimmerman then lined a two-run single to center, giving Clinton a 5-2 lead.
But the three-run cushion vanished quickly.
Quad Cities' first five batters in the 7th inning reached against Munoz. Mathis singled and scored on Ramsay's first of two hits on the night, a triple to the gap in right-center. Ramsay scored and White reached after Shank misplayed a pop-up in shallow right, cutting the River Bandits' deficit to one. Gregor and Brett Booth both singled to load the bases, ending Munoz' night. Blake Holovach came on and got a 6-4-3 double play which tied the game, but on the ensuing pitch, he allowed a two-out go-ahead RBI single to Phillips.
Trailing after seven and winless in such contests, Clinton had two more innings of fight left.
And it was Clinton who got the last punch.
Similar to the sixth, Reynolds got drilled to start the rally. Reynolds stole second again and remained there after Tyler O'Neill walked on four pitches. Wilson, who currently leads Clinton with 13 RBI's, laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt setting up DeCarlo's heroics. With DeCarlo at the plate, Zach Morton (1-1) uncorked a wild pitch, scoring Reynolds from third which tied the game at three. Two pitches later, DeCarlo blasted a one-hop RBI double off the fence in center, plating O'Neill.
Closer Emilio Pagan came out and pitched around a two-out single, picking up his fourth save in four tries. Holovach (2-1) was the beneficiary of the two-run eighth and earned his second win.
Littlewood boosted his average from .385 to .395 after his 2-for-4, 3-run homer night. The converted shortstop has reached base safely in all 11 of his starts.
Clinton (9-7) trails Kane County by just 1.5 games in the MWL Western Division. The loss was Quad Cities' (7-10) fourth straight, as they now sit tied for last with Beloit. Game two of the four-game series against the River Bandits is set for an early 12:30 p.m. start Tuesday at Ashford University Field. Lefty Eddie Campbell (1-0, 0.00) will start for the L'Kings and will be opposed by right-hander Adrian Houser (0-0, 6.10).