GARY, IN. 7-29-2010 — Mike Massaro went 4-for-4 and Randall Simon had two hits in his debut as the Gary SouthShore RailCats rolled up 18 hits and routed the Joliet JackHammers 6-1 Thursday night at Silver Cross Field in the opener of a four-game series.
The RailCats had a 3-0 lead before Joliet starter Rory Shortell (2-5) recorded an out and the RailCats never stopped hitting, putting at least two runners on base in eight of their nine offensive innings and consistently threatening the JackHammer pitching staff. Every RailCats starter reached base at least once in the game as the 18 hits marked the third-highest output of the year for the ‘Cats.
Adam Klein had a big day as well and started the night with an excellent 10-pitch at bat that eventually ended with a first inning opposite field single. Massaro followed Klein and singled, going to second when left fielder Jonathan Wyatt fired through to third base. With runners on second and third and still no one out, Jay Pecci dropped a base hit into left-center to plate both runners and give the ‘Cats the only runs they would need. After a Cristian Guerrero walk, Simon grounded a single into left in his first RailCats at bat, knocking Pecci in for his first RailCats RBI.
Simon was in the middle of the next RailCats scoring rally in the third, doubling down the right field line with one out, advancing to third alertly on a passed ball, and scoring on a two-out Louis Ott single. The RailCats fifth and sixth runs came with help from the ‘Hammers, as Tanner Townsend scored on a balk in the fifth and Klein scored when catcher Joe Billick dropped a throw to the plate from right after another Massaro hit.
Overshadowed by all the offense, rookie right-hander Nolan Nicholson (4-2) came up with a fourth straight outstanding start, giving up just one hit in 5.0 shutout innings. Nicholson retired the first two hitters in each of the first four innings before loading the bases on walks in the fifth, only to get out of the inning with a pair of ground balls. In his last four starts, Nicholson is 3-0 with a 1.17 ERA, having allowed just 14 hits and three runs in 23.0 innings.
Joliet’s lone run came in the ninth when Roberto Mena doubled home Chris Colton with Joliet’s fifth hit of the night. RailCats pitchers did walk six, however, including four from Nicholson. Both teams left double-digit runners on base, with Joliet stranding 10 and the RailCats leaving 12.
Massaro’s four-hit game was the seventh by a RailCat this year, and could have been a five-hit game. Massaro singled in each of his first four at bats before drawing a walk in the eighth. Klein went 3-for-5 and Pecci, Simon, Townsend, Ott and Mike Valadez all added two hits. The RailCats had only one extra-base hit, however, piling up 17 singles in the game.
Kevin Rios had the only two JackHammer hits in the first seven innings, finishing 2-for-4. Jon Nelson went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts, watching his Northern League-best 20-game hitting streak come to an end. Shortell went just 4.2 innings in the loss, allowing 12 hits and five earned runs.
The win was the RailCats fifth in their last seven games and eighth in 13 tries. The ‘Cats improved their league-best road record to 18-14 in the first game between the two teams this year in Joliet.
The RailCats (31-32) and JackHammers (33-29) continue their four-game series Friday night at 7:10 p.m. at Silver Cross Field. Left-hander Brad Halsey (3-5, 4.65 ERA) will start for the ‘Cats with fellow southpaw Devin Anderson (3-2, 4.91 ERA) slated for the ‘Hammers. The game will be broadcast live on 89.1 FM, The Lakeshore, and online at www.railcatsbaseball.com.
Notes: Pecci, a switch-hitter, hit left-handed in the game for the first time since coming off the disabled list earlier this month. Nursing a knee injury, Pecci had been batting exclusively right-handed … the RailCats and JackHammers have split four games so far this year in the quest for the I-80 Trophy, which will be awarded at the end of the regular season. The teams have 10 more regular season games scheduled before the end of the year.