By JAMES COOK firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY —A three-run sixth inning proved to be the difference as River City came into Wuerfel Park and took the opener of a three-game set 5-3 from the Traverse City Beach Bums.
"It's a big win for our ball club," Rascals manager Steve Brook said. "Coming in and facing arguably the best team in the league at their ball park. It's a tough place to hit in, and the wind's blowing straight in. Our guys got pretty good at-bats. We scored a lot of our runs with two outs."
A two-out triple in the sixth by Curran Redal — River's City's only player remaining from a 45-50 team last season — brought home Evan Crawford for what would prove to be the winning run.
"We have an excellent pitching and defensive club," Brook said. "We've had 19 games this season where we've scored two runs or less. We're trying to stay with the mentality that these guys are going to come around and we can manufacture runs. We were fortunate enough to get that done."
River City came into the game with similar batting averages (both are at .249) and on-base percentages (TC's .349 to .346) as Traverse City, but had scored 63 fewer runs.
"They played better than we did," Traverse City manager Gregg Langbehn said. "They outplayed us. They deserved to win; we didn't."
Traverse City starter Jake Sabol started out shaky, giving up a run in the first on three singles. But he bounced back in the second — working a six-pitch, 1-2-3 frame — and facing the minimum number of batters in the second through fifth innings.
"We got to Sabol pretty well — as far as good at-bats — and were able to produce some runs," Brook said. "And we needed that win."
The Bums evened things up in the second when Chase Burch led off with a double and Carlo Testa singled. Testa then stole second, and Burch came in on Danny Canela's throw to second bounced into the outfield. Testa would later come in on Marcus Nidiffer's two-out RBI single for a 2-1 lead.
"We scored early, and then they bounced back with the two," Brook said. "I felt we kind of gave them one of those with the error. I felt we had a good throw to second. We just didn't have a guy there in enough time."
River City swiped the lead back with a three-run sixth on three runs and a walk. The Beach Bums countered with one run when Jose Vargas led off the sixth with a triple and came across on a Burch sacrifice fly for his league-leading 39th RBI.
Sabol ended up going 6.2 innings with three strikeouts and giving up nine hits and five runs. Chris Squires finished it from there, tossing 2.1 innings of relief without allowing a base runner and striking out four.
"Squires came in and threw the ball very well," Brook said. "He was impressive."
Langbehn didn't seem too worried about Sabol, who has lost three straight decisions after starting the season 7-1.
"A couple things here and there," Langbehn said. "Nothing stuff-wise. It's location. That's all it is. He'll be fine."
Craig Goodman earned the Rascals' win, surrendering five hits and striking out five in 5.2 frames. Jon Levin worked 1.1 innings and then set-up man Nick Kennedy and closer Gabe Shaw finished things up with scoreless frames.
Traverse City managed only six hits — two of which were by Testa, who raised his batting average to .254 with a 2 for 4 night.