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Any night that ends with fireworks and a trophy is hard to beat.

So too were the Quad-Cities River Bandits.

Quad-Cities routed Fort Wayne 12-2 to capture its third Midwest League championship in the last seven years and seventh overall.

"Honestly, it doesn't get much better than this," catcher Chuckie Robinson said. "I set the bar high, so hopefully next year I can be somewhere and I can feel this feeling again."

Robinson was named series MVP after helping the Bandits roll to a sweep of the TinCaps. The only player to spend the whole season with Quad-Cities was 4-for-5 with a two-run home run Saturday night that put an exclamation point on a night of dominance.

Robinson finished the postseason with four home runs.

The Bandits took advantage of a Fort Wayne pitching staff that struggled to find the strike zone in the first two innings.

Quad-Cities scored three runs in the first inning off TinCaps starter Adrian Morejon, and then chased Morejon in the second inning with another run. 

Fort Wayne's bullpen didn't fare much better.

Ronald Bolanos gave up three runs without recording an out and by the third inning the Bandits led 10-0.

All told, Fort Wayne allowed seven hits and issued six walks in the first two innings.

"We knew they had a good pitcher out there but we didn't care," Abraham Toro-Hernandez said. "Everybody was trying to do their job.

"In the regular season, we were kind of slow, we lost (six in a row at the end of the season) ... we knew we were better than that and we knew we were a really good team and we can fight every inning." 

In the series, Quad-Cities outscored Fort Wayne 17-2 in the first three innings, a big key to the sweep.

"They're a good hitting team and you can't make mistakes," Fort Wayne manager Anthony Contreras said. "The big stage, those guys were just better than us this whole series. You've got to tip your caps to them. They were here for a reason, just like we were, but they were the better team."

With the game all but decided, outs couldn't come quick enough until Justin Lopez flew out to Kristian Trompiz in shallow left field to end the game, sending the Bandits dugout onto the field in celebration.

The championship was won in Russ Steinhorn's first year as manager, and it is Quad-Cities' second championship as affiliates of the Houston Astros.

"It doesn't come around often," Steinhorn said. "It doesn't matter what level you're at, when you have an opportunity to win a championship, in A-ball, the big leagues, little league, high school, college, whatever, the feeling is the same and I'm very excited these players got a chance to experience it."

While Fort Wayne pitching struggled, Ronel Blanco was stellar on the mound for Quad-Cities. He didn't allow a hit in the first two innings and finished the night allowing four hits and striking out 10 batters over 6 ⅔ innings of work.

When lifted by Steinhorn, the two hugged and Blanco was greeted with a standing ovation by the fans in attendance. Blanco reacted by raising his arms and bowing in response.

"He deserved it. He's worked hard the entire year," Steinhorn said. "Never been on this kind of stage and to go out there and show the maturity and confidence he did, we wanted to pull him out at a time where he could embrace this moment and enjoy it and it worked out perfect."

Fort Wayne finally got on the board off Bandits reliever Yohan Ramirez. Jack Suwinski hit a two-run double to cut the score to 12-2. Suwinski's hit was the first for Fort Wayne with runners in scoring position in the series. The TinCaps finished the series 1-for-15 in that position.


Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times