The Gary SouthShore RailCats strung hits together at the right times as they stayed one step ahead of the Kane County Cougars all night long in an 8-4 victory.
Both teams produced double-digit hits, but the ‘Cats made theirs count, ensuring that they kept the Cougars at a distance the whole game.
It did not take very long for the Gary SouthShore lineup to crack the scoreboard. Alec Olund got the offense going through his one-out double in the bottom of the second, and on the very next pitch, Sam Abbott cranked his sixth home run of the season over the Diamond Club in right field to give the ‘Cats their first lead. The ensuing batter, Chris Burgess, crushed a ball off the batter’s eye in center field to cap off the inning with back-to-back home runs and a 3-0 lead.
The Cougars answered back with a long ball of their own in the top of the third. Ernie De La Trinidad hit a leadoff home run to cut the Gary SouthShore advantage to two.
However, the RailCats responded right away in the bottom half of the frame. Michael Woodworth and Daniel Lingua led off with consecutive base hits, and Michael Cruz came through one batter later by doubling Woodworth home. Lingua scampered home on a wild pitch shortly thereafter and increased the team’s edge to 5-1.
The bats fell silent in the fourth, but Steve Lombardozzi woke them back up in the top of the fifth. His solo shot brought the Cougars back within three, but Gary SouthShore roared back once again. Woodworth and Cruz strung singles together, and with one out, Jesus Marriaga beat out a would-be inning-ending double play to restore the RailCats lead to four.
Once the sixth inning rolled around, the Cougars put some pressure on the RailCats defense. Three straight hits lowered the Kane County deficit to three before a strikeout and flyout calmed the Gary SouthShore nerves. Though the next two batters walked to plate another run and move the game-tying run to second base, Josh Vincent kept his cool on the mound and induced a weak pop out to keep the ‘Cats in front.
Immediately following the clutch pitching display, the ‘Cats got to work rebuilding their advantage to four. A Burgess base on balls and Tom Walraven single got the inning started, and Javeyan Williams by singling up the middle. Walraven came around on another wild pitch, and in the blink of an eye, Gary SouthShore found themselves on top 8-4.
From there, pitching carried the ’Cats the rest of the way. Vincent polished off a scoreless seventh inning, and Aaron Phillips took over in the eighth. He fanned three Cougars in his two innings of work, coaxing three pop outs as well to hammer down the win.
The RailCats and Cougars retake the field at The Steel Yard at 12:00 p.m. tomorrow for game two of this three-game series as Adam Heidenfelder (1-3, 3.68 ERA) squares off against Vance Worley (2-2, 4.61 ERA). All the action will be streamed on www.aabaseball.tv, 95.9 WEFM, and the Gary SouthShore RailCats Broadcast Network through the Mixlr app.