JOLIET, IL. 9-5-2010 – The Gary SouthShore RailCats built a six-run lead in the fourth inning before holding off a late Joliet JackHammers rally to win 7-6 Sunday afternoon at Silver Cross Field, keeping their chances of claiming the third seed in the Northern League Playoffs alive.
The RailCats and JackHammers will enter Monday night’s regular season finale with identical 52-47 records, with the winner of the game finishing third and getting set to host second seeded Kansas City Wednesday and Thursday, and the loser heading north to visit the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in the first two games. The RailCats are guaranteed at least one home playoff game, and tickets to see the ‘Cats at U. S. Steel Yard in the postseason are on sale now at www.railcatsbaseball.com.
After facing big deficits in the first two games of the series – both Joliet wins – the RailCats got started in the very first inning Sunday when Adam Klein reached on an error and stole season – his team-leading 29th stolen base of the year. After Mike Massaro singled him to third, Tanner Townsend drove him home with the first of his four singles in the game.
Joliet tied the game in the bottom of the first but the RailCats came back to score a go-ahead second inning run when Jay Pecci scored on a double play grounder. The lead swelled to 5-1 in the third when Townsend singled to start the inning and scored on a Mike Reese base hit. Reese and Cristian Guerrero would come in to score one batter later when Pecci lined a base hit to left. In the fourth, Chris Carrara led off with a single, stole second and scored on a Townsend single. Jeff Beachum drove Townsend in one batter later to put the RailCats in front 7-1.
The ‘Cats would do little else offensively the rest of the way – getting just three hits after the fourth – as Joliet slowly chipped their way back into the game. Jon Nelson hit his team-leading 26th home run, a two-run shot, off James Baker (3-5) in the bottom of the fourth to cut the deficit to 7-3 and the ‘Hammers scored three runs off Chris Chavez in the eighth. Chavez left with the tying and go-ahead runs on base with two outs in the eighth, giving way to Andy Shipman, who got Ryan Wehrle to ground out to end the inning. Shipman pitched over a leadoff error in the ninth as well to earn his league-leading 21st save of the season.
Zeb Engle started the game for the RailCats and pitched well in the first three innings, allowing just one run on two hits with a pair of strikeouts, retiring the last seven men he faced in a row. Baker earned the win in relief for retiring four straight after Nelson’s fourth inning homer. Jeff Williams also pitched an inning in the game as the RailCats rested scheduled starter Willie Glen for the playoffs and allowed their bullpen to carry the load.
The RailCats banged out double-digit hits for the second straight game, collecting 14 in total including a 4-for-5 day from Townsend, who drove in a pair and scored two other runs. Townsend is now 8-for-13 in the series and raised his season average to .279. Massaro, Reese and Pecci each also had two hits for the RailCats. Nelson and Richard Mercado had two hits for the JackHammers.
The RailCats (52-47) and JackHammers (52-47) close out the regular season Monday night at 5:10 p.m. at Silver Cross Field. Jeremy Hauer (0-2, 6.66 ERA) will make his first RailCats start opposite Joliet southpaw Todd Privett (9-5, 4.21 ERA). The game will be broadcast live on 89.1 FM, The Lakeshore, and online at www.railcatsbaseball.com.
Notes: With Massaro’s two hits, the race continues between he and Klein to set the RailCats single-season hits record. Klein leads the way entering Monday with 119 hits to Massaro’s 118. Both have broken Pecci’s club record (115, 2008) … Engle’s start was his third of the year … Townsend has four games of at least three hits in his last 15 … the ‘Hammers have won seven of 13 this year against the RailCats … Shipman is 21-for-22 in save chances and Sunday’s save was his third that took more than three outs.