A game-tying home run from Xavier Scruggs in the top of the eighth inning was not enough to deliver a win on Monday afternoon, as the Quad Cities River Bandits lost the final game of the 2009 regular season, 4-2, to the Kane County Cougars on Labor Day at Elfstrom Stadium.
Despite the loss, Quad Cities (31-38, 61-78) finished the 2009 season with six wins in their last eight games. Kane County (35-35, 76-64) survived the towering solo shot from Scruggs with a pair of runs in the bottom of the eighth to sneak out the victory.
The score was even at 2-2 when Kane County's Mike Spina drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the eighth and advanced to second on a single by Jeremy Barfield. After a sacrifice bunt advanced both runners 90 feet, Tyler Ladendorf was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. The next batter, Carlos Arrieche, sent a slow roller to the right side, but Jason Stidham threw the ball away towards second in his haste to try to turn a double play. Spina and Barfield both scored easily while Ladendorf was thrown out at the plate by left fielder Jarred Bogany. But the damage had been done and the Cougars seized a 4-2 lead.
Paul Smyth (2) came in for the ninth and pitched a 1-2-3 frame for the save. That wrapped up a win for Kane County reliever Justin Murray (5-1), who was rewarded by the late rally after serving up a game-tying homer in his only inning of work.
Eric Fornataro (0-5) suffered the loss despite a solid outing. He threw six innings of relief and allowed just the two runs in the eighth - only one of which was earned - on six hits with two strikeouts and two walks.
Fornataro did not enter the contest until the third because Shelby Miller took the mound for the River Bandits in his second professional start, and the 19th overall pick in the 2009 draft shot out of the gates strong with a 1-2-3 bottom of the first inning.
But in the second, the hard-throwing 18-year-old ran into some trouble. Though he got ahead of every batter that he faced, the Cougars rallied for two runs on four hits to take the lead. Spina and Barfield got it started with consecutive singles the other way, while Miller let an 0-2 count slip away to Petey Paramore and walked the bases loaded. Ladendorf and Franklin Hernandez followed with back-to-back run-scoring base hits to the opposite field, as Kane County played station-to-station baseball and took a 2-0 lead. Miller bounced back to limit the damage, striking out Nino Leyja before inducing an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Quad Cities got one of the runs back in the top of the third. D'Marcus Ingram drew a two-out walk and raced from first to third on a single by Jason Stidham. Jermaine Curtis got the River Bandits on the board by roping a liner to left, doubling home Ingram to pull within 2-1.
That margin remained until the eighth, when Scruggs launched a towering solo homer on a full-count, two-out pitch to even the score at 2-2. In 34 games with the River Bandits, the powerful San Diego native finished with seven home runs and 33 RBI.
UP NEXT: The 2010 schedule has already been released and fans can put down a deposit on season ticket and mini-plan packages right now by calling (563) 3-BANDIT. Over the off-season, Modern Woodmen Park will stay busy as a special events venue, providing the perfect atmosphere for holiday parties, corporate functions and more. The ballpark will also once again play host to the Field of Screams haunted house - the biggest haunted house in the Quad Cities - which will be open October 9-10, 16-17, 22-24, and 29-31 from 8:00-Midnight.
ABOUT THE BANDITS: The Quad Cities River Bandits set a new post-renovation mark for single-season attendance in 2009, as 236,401 fans passed through the turnstiles for an average of 3,694 fans per game. Both figures marked the highest since 1995, while the average attendance was the third highest in franchise history and the total attendance was the fifth highest all-time. The total attendance was up 14 percent over the 2008 season, continuing a 59 percent attendance increase since Main St. Iowa purchased the franchise following the 2007 season. Ticket sales, concessions, merchandise sales, sponsorships and even Kids' Zone revenues were all up over 2008, which was one of the team's best in history! Season ticket deposits for 2010 are already being taken!