CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It’s all or nothing now for the Quad-Cities River Bandits … again.
For the third time in five days, Quad-Cities will take the field at Cedar Rapids tonight needing a win to extend its season.
The Kernels forced a third-and-deciding game in the Midwest League Western Division championship series, grabbing an early seven-run lead and holding on for a 7-4 victory on Sunday evening at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“We’ve been here before and I know our guys will play hard until the final out,’’ River Bandits manager Russ Steinhorn said. “Our guys have been through a lot this season and I know they will give it their best shot.’’
The winner of today’s 6:30 p.m. game in Cedar Rapids will begin play on the road Wednesday in the Midwest League Championship Series.
Much like Saturday’s series opener when Quad-Cities overcame a 4-0 deficit through six innings to rally for a 5-4, 10-inning win, the River Bandits spotted the Kernels an early edge Sunday.
Unlike Saturday, Quad-Cities was unable to finish this comeback but the River Bandits gave it a shot after falling behind 7-0 five innings.
“Anytime you get down 7-0, it’s tough, but we didn’t back down,’’ said Troy Sieber, who contributed two singles to the River Bandits’ 10-hit attack. “We got some hits, put some runs up, gave ourselves a chance to take the lead.’’
That chance came during the sixth when It took Cedar Rapids three pitchers to work through a four-run inning that started with walks to three of the four batters that reliever Patrick McGuff faced.
A wild pitch by Randy Dobnak scored Abraham Toro-Hernandez and preceded a string of consecutive run-scoring singles by Bryan De La Cruz, Chas McCormick and Colin Moran.
By the time Chuckie Robinson followed with a walk which reloaded the bases and sent Kernels manager Tommy Watkins back to the bullpen, Quad-Cities had pulled within 7-4.
He brought in Colton Davis, who needed only one pitch to retire Toro-Hernandez on a fly out to left and end the only inning the River Bandits managed to score.
“Our guys never thought they were out of it,’’ Steinhorn said. “It was a good inning that we needed. We worked the count, swung the bats well and got ourselves back on track. Down seven, it was a step forward to show that kind of fight.’’
Led by a three-hit game from McCormick, Quad-Cities had plenty of other opportunities.
The River Bandits went 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position and stranded baserunners in scoring position in five of the first six innings as Cedar Rapids built its early lead.
The Kernels used the long ball to collect their early success.
Shane Carrier capped a three-run second inning with a two-run homer off of River Bandits starter Ronel Blanco and Travis Blankenhorn opened the bottom of the third with a blast to right which left Quad-Cities in a 4-0 hole.
Cedar Rapids tacked on three more runs in the fifth, including one on the second of three doubles hit by Caleb Hamilton.
“In a playoff game where one, two runs will decide it, you have to get more than a couple of innings out of your starter,’’ Steinhorn said. “You can’t fall behind like that. Once (reliever Nathan) Thompson got in there, he did a good job of keeping us in there but being down seven runs was too much to overcome.’’
Thompson allowed one hit and struck out five over the final three innings.