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River Bandits sweep their way to crown

Quad Cities captures first Midwest League pennant since 1990
September 18, 2011
There's only one way to describe the Quad Cities River Bandits' title run: perfect.

Jonathan Rodriguez drove in three runs as Class A Quad Cities beat the Lansing Lugnuts, 6-3, to sweep its way to its first Midwest League championship in 21 years.

Rodriguez tied the game in the first inning with an RBI groundout. In the seventh, after the Lugnuts had cut the deficit to one, the 22-year-old first baseman restored the River Bandits' lead with a two-run double.

"That was huge," Quad Cities manager Johnny Rodriguez said. "Every other day someone else came up with a clutch hit."

The former 17th-round pick was a key contributor to the club's 7-0 playoff run, batting .385 with a league-leading 11 RBIs.

After guiding the Bandits to the league's second-best record in the regular season, Johnny Rodriguez was amazed at what the club accomplished in the playoffs.

"It was an unbelievable run," he said. "You just don't see 7-0 runs in the playoffs. It's an unbelievable feeling because you don't get many chances at it. That's the biggest thing, the way they did it against three solid opponents."

Quad Cities starter Trevor Rosenthal (2-0) allowed three runs on five hits and struck out seven over six-plus innings en route to his second playoff win.

"We wanted him to give us six innings. That was the goal," Johnny Rodriguez said. "He had his fastball working, he threw a lot of good breaking balls, the curveball and the changeup that he mixed. Because they were conscious of the curve and the change, the fastball looked even more alive in the zone."

Rodriguez credited his players for taking to his playoff mantra.

"There's one thing I write on my board on top of the lineup -- competitive greatness," he said. "A lot of players are struggling and they don't understand what pressure is. Be at your best when your best is needed. And this team took this to heart."

Rodriguez praised the efforts of the Cardinals' front office for the quality of players he managed.

"I want to give thanks to John Vuch, our farm director; Jeff Luhnow, our scouting director; John Mozeliak, the general manager; and the owner of the Cardinals, Mr. [William] DeWitt, because they drafted character players," he said.

Quad Cities had not won a title since 1990, a fact not lost on Rodriguez. He said the victory was made even sweeter by the fact the team got to do it in front of the home crowd at Modern Woodmen Park.

"The stadium was packed," Rodriguez said. "They started coming in and coming in. They energized our players and we give thanks to the city because they came out to support us. They all came out and they were rewarded."

Oscar Taveras was 2-for-3 with two runs scored and first-round pick Kolten Wong reached base three times and scored twice for the River Bandits.

Dean Kiekhefer loaded the bases in the ninth before closing out the series. Drew Benes and Aidan Lucas combined to toss two innings of scoreless relief.

Robert Emrich is a contributor to