There was no sugarcoating it.
Mike Hauschild was on top of his game long before it rained candy and marshmallows on around 1,000 Quad-City area youths at the River Bandits’ Mega Candy Drop following Sunday’s 4-1 Midwest League victory over Clinton.
Regaining confidence in his changeup, Hauschild struck out a career-high 10 batters in a five-inning start and teamed with Jordan Jankowski and Gerardo Sanchez for a walk-free, 15-strikeout performance in front of a crowd of 3,636 at Modern Woodmen Park.
“My changeup hasn’t been that good since college more than a year ago,’’ Hauschild said. “It was my best pitch then, but I’ve struggled to find the right grip and today, it was finally back. I’ve been working on things in the pen and I’ve regained trust in it.’’
Hauschild experimented with several grips as he worked in recent bullpen sessions with pitching coach Dave Borkowski.
“The last few weeks, we’ve been messing around with some different things and I think we found one a couple of days ago,’’ Hauschild said. “I was able to keep them off-balance with my fastball, changeup and slider and it seemed to work.’’
River Bandits manager Omar Lopez liked the variety of sequences Hauschild (5-1) used to frustrate the LumberKings at the plate.
“He didn’t repeat a sequence to any batter and he had command of all of his pitches,’’ Lopez said. “I’m seeing the confidence grow in all of our pitchers. Hauschild moved his fastball in and out and mixed it up with a sharp slider and a changeup and Jankowski held the game when he came in. They went out and did their jobs. It was a good night for all of our pitchers.’’
Quad-Cities, off to a 7-3 start in the second half, gave its pitchers an early lead to work with.
The River Bandits had only six hits, but second-inning singles by Jesse Wierzbicki and Roberto Pena positioned a run to score when Austin Elkins reached on an error and on a groundout by Brett Phillips.
An inning later, Carlos Correa doubled with one out and scored on a single by Rio Ruiz, who led Quad-Cities with two hits.
“We didn’t have a lot of hits, but we had clutch hits and took advantage of situations when we had a runner in position to score,’’ Lopez said. “That is something we are working on. Clutch hitting was big for us in this game. We needed it because they did not give us many opportunities.’’
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Limited to one hit over the final four innings by LumberKings relievers Jochi Ogando and Richard Vargas, the River Bandits extended their lead to 4-0 on a solo homer by Elikins in the fourth, the last run either team managed until Jordy Lara homered with one out in the ninth for Clinton.
*ROSTER MOVE: Chia-Jen Lo, a 27-year-old pitcher who worked in nine major-league spring training games this year, joined the River Bandits on Sunday.
Lo, a 2008 Olympian for Chinese Taipei and a one-time pitcher of the week in the Arizona Fall League, was initially expected to pitch for Double-A Corpus Christi this season but began the year on the disabled list and is working his way back through the Astros system. Lo went 0-0 with four saves in six appearances for Tri-City before being promoted to the Quad-Cities roster.
*STILL HITTING: Ruben Sosa, a .300 hitter who stole 10 bases in 16 games for Quad-Cities before being promoted by Houston to Triple-A Oklahoma City last Tuesday, has continued to hit since arriving in the Pacific Coast League. Sosa is batting .250 through five games with the Redhawks.
* ON DECK: Clinton at Quad-Cities, 7 p.m., today. Probable pitchers: Clinton, Matt Anderson (4-6, 4.24 ERA); Quad-Cities, Colton Cain (3-5, 4.57)