The team that just won't die kept their playoff hopes alive with another fantastic win on Thursday, as the River City Rascals defeated the Rockford Aviators 8-4 at Aviators Stadium in Loves Park, Ill.
The Rascals have now won 13 of their last 15 games, and thanks to losses on Thursday by the Southern Illinois Miners and the Florence Freedom, River City is just a game-and-a-half back in the race for the Frontier League's final playoff spot.
The crosstown rival Gateway Grizzlies are also tied with the Miners and Freedom for that final wild card spot, but with seven games left (while the other three teams only have six games remaining), the Rascals still have time to possibly catch up and claim that postseason berth for themselves.
To do so though, River City will need to have more sensational nights at the plate, on the mound, and on the basepaths like it did on Thursday.
In the series finale against the Aviators, the Rascals banged out 12 hits (11 of them singles), including three hits from third baseman Steve Carillo and two hits apiece from Danny Canela and Curran Redal.
Shortstop Johnny Morales drove in three runs, and the visitors combined for six stolen bases.
But the most impressive individual performance probably came from starting pitcher Casey Barnes, who threw his first complete game as a professional to get the win.
Barnes (7-3), who gave up two hits in the first inning and two hits and two runs in the second, settled down and overpowered the Aviators the rest of the way, giving up just two more runs the rest of the game, with six strikeouts and no walks.
In fact, save for a meaningless Matt Greener solo home run in the eighth, Barnes retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced, and didn't seem to give up any hard hit balls. Even Greener's homer didn't sound good off the bat, but somehow carried out of the park for Rockford's final run of the game.
River City will now head home for what will no doubt be the biggest series of the season, this weekend at T.R. Hughes Ballpark, when the Rascals will host Southern Illinois for three games that will absolutely make or break their season.
If River City can continue its hot play, it could find itself surging ahead in the playoff chase. But if the Rascals falter in these three games against the Miners, it would probably be the deathblow to their playoff hopes.
Game 1 of the series is Friday night, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
RIVER CITY RASCALS REMAINING SCHEDULE
August 30 vs. Southern Illinois Miners .......... 7:05 p.m.
August 31 vs. Southern Illinois Miners .......... 7:05 p.m.
September 1 vs. Southern Illinois Miners ........ 6:05 p.m.
September 3 at Evansville Otters (doubleheader) . 5:35 p.m.
September 4 at Evansville Otters ................ 10:05 a.m.
September 5 at Evansville Otters ................ 6:35 p.m.