Just like the fireworks which filled the skies above Modern Woodmen Park on Friday night, what the Quad-Cities River Bandits worked all night to earn disappeared in a flash.
Wisconsin batted around and rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth inning to earn a 5-3 Midwest League victory in front of a crowd of 6,371 who traversed a temporary bridge and ignored Mississippi River flooding which surrounded the stadium for the Independence Day game.
“It’s a tough one to lose, but in baseball you have to roll with the punches,’’ Quad-Cities starting pitcher Adrian Houser said. “You take the good with the bad and when it’s over, you come back the next day and try to get the next game, win or lose.’’
Houser and Tyler Brunnemann had given the River Bandits a chance to win, limiting the Timber Rattlers to a pair of singles and combining to strike out 10 batters while walking one to send Quad-Cities into the ninth with a 2-0 lead.
A leadoff single by Chris McFarland followed by back-to-back walks issued by Frederick Tiburcio loaded the bases and positioned Wisconsin for the comeback.
A sacrifice fly by Taylor Brennan sliced the River Bandits’ lead in half and after a walk to Rafael Neda re-loaded the bases, Andrew Walter came in from the pen.
The Timber Rattlers tied the game when Quad-Cities second baseman Jose Fernandez couldn’t come up with a sharply-hit ball by Angel Ortega, settling for a fielder’s choice that scored Michael Ratterree.
Steven Halcomb followed with a two-run double to left which moved Wisconsin ahead to stay.
The rally marked the first time this season the River Bandits had let more than a one-run lead slip away in the ninth inning, erasing the 2-0 lead Quad-Cities had held since Fernandez belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth.
His second homer of the season, which followed an inning-opening error which allowed Brett Phillips to reach, came as pitchers dominated for both teams.
Houser recorded a season-high eight strikeouts while allowing two hits over a six-inning start and the Timber Rattlers’ Preston Gainey set his own season best with 10 strikeouts and also surrendered two hits over seven innings.
Of the 89 pitches Houser threw, he recorded strikes on 62 of them. Gainey found the strike zone on 63 of the 103 pitches he made for Wisconsin.
“Definitely after the first inning, I felt comfortable. I was throwing everything for strikes, feeling good and confidence,’’ Houser said. “Gainey was doing the same for them and Brunnemann did the same when he came in. You feed off of that when you’re out there in a game like that.’’
Houser settled into that type of groove after leaving the bases loaded in the first, retiring 17 of the final 18 batters he faced before Brunnemann worked two perfect innings for Quad-Cities.
“I started a little rough in the first inning. I couldn’t find the zone, but I was able to work out of it, throw strikes,’’ Houser said. “That’s what you have to do, keep working.’’
Although Ronnie Mitchell opened the bottom of the ninth with a double and scored on a single up the middle by Brian Holberton, that remained a painful lesson for Quad-Cities.
“All we can do is move on,’’ Houser said.