Bandits win third Midwest title in seven years

Robinson collects four hits, Blanco fans career-high 10 in clincher

The Quad Cities River Bandits celebrate their first Midwest League championship since 2013. (Rich Guill/Quad Cities River Bandits)

By Alex Kraft / | September 17, 2017 12:33 AM

The team that took the field for Quad Cities on Saturday looked nothing like the one that started on Opening Day. But as they had all season, the players kept rolling all the way across the finish line. 

The River Bandits captured their third Midwest League championship in seven years as they thumped Fort Wayne, 12-2, on Saturday at Modern Woodmen Park. Chuckie Robinson went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and four runs scored, falling a triple shy of the cycle, while Ronel Blanco allowed four hits and struck out a career-high 10 over 6 2/3 scoreless innings.

Video: Quad Cities captures 2017 Midwest League title

After putting up three runs in the first against TinCaps starter and fifth-ranked Padres prospect Adrian Morejon (0-1), Quad Cities struck for six in the second. The deluge began with an RBI double to left field by Robinson and ended when reliever Jim McDade fanned rehabbing Colin Moran, the Astros' sixth-ranked prospect. The big inning saw 12 men come to the plate, collecting five hits and drawing a pair of bases-loaded walks.

"I think they were just locked in," River Bandits manager Russ Steinhorn said. "They were swinging at good pitches and just hunting pitches that they could drive. They did a phenomenal job from pitch one all the way through the last pitch of the game."

Box score

Abraham Toro-Hernandez drove in a run with a single in the third and Robinson swatted a two-run homer to left in the fifth to stretch Quad Cities' advantage to 12-0. The lead provided a calming influence for Blanco (1-0), who fanned seven of the first 11 batters he faced.

Video: Robinson belts two-run homer for Quad Cities

"I think it was just a culmination of all his hard work he's been putting in the entire year," Steinhorn said. "He's one of our hardest workers and to see him go out there in the big moment and embrace it and take advantage of it was the most impressive thing."

Robinson's long ball capped the first four-hit game of his career. The 22-year-old catcher scored four times and narrowly missed cycling when he flied to deep right in the seventh.

Complete playoff coverage

"Big moments are for big players, and he's a great player," Steinhorn said. "It's just embracing the opportunity, and when you have a guy like that in the lineup and a leader like that in the clubhouse, good things are going to happen."

Toro-Hernandez, Troy Sieber and Kristian Trompiz finished with two RBIs apiece for the River Bandits.

Jack Suwinski went 2-for-4 and drove in Fort Wayne's only runs with a double in the seventh.

Midwest League champions

Quad Cities went 5-1 in the postseason and outscored the TinCaps, 23-5, in the three-game sweep.  The team won the title despite going through 115 player transactions during the season. Of the players who took the field on Saturday, only Robinson appeared with the team on Opening Day.

"This is a credit to the entire staff that's worked with each one of these individuals," Steinhorn said. "They knew the expectations, they knew exactly what we were trying to accomplish to get them better every day, and they embraced that. ... This is the reward for all their hard work."

Alex Kraft is a contributor to Follow and chat with him on Twitter @Alex_Kraft21. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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