Some familiar faces mixed in with some new talent, the Quad Cities River Bandits started off the season at home against Kane County Cougars. Of the 4-game stand, the Cougars took games 1 and 3, while the River Bandits took games 2 and 4. Not only are both the Cougars and River Bandits at 2-2, but all the Midwest League Western Division teams are 2-2.
Despite the opening loss on Thursday night, the River Bandits matched the Cougars with 11 hits, but it was the Cougars that made their hits count, dropping the River Bandits 8-4. River Bandits' newcomer James Ramsay collected 3 hits, including a double, and he was 1 of 4 hitters who collected more than 1 hit. Returning second basemen Austin Elkins led the team with 2 runs batted in with his triple in the 3rd inning. Elkins played 110 games for last year's Midwest Champion River Bandits.
Friday's game was rescheduled due to cold weather, making it a double-header on Saturday, April 5. The 1st game belonged to the River Bandits' pitching staff. Starting left-hander Kent Emanuel, also a new River Bandit, handcuffed the Cougars for only 2 hits and 1 run, while striking out 2 in his 4 innings of work. Jandel Gustave finished off the Cougars by blanking them for the rest of the game. Gustave comes to the River Bandits this year while pitching in 48 games over the last 4 seasons with various teams.
The River Bandits came to hit in the 3rd game, but failed to bring enough across home plate to win. The bottom 5 batters of the order all collected 2 hits each, but none of them hit a runner home, resulting in 15 runners left on base throughout the game. The Cougars took this nightcap 5-4 with a run in the 10th, while holding the River Bandits scoreless in the bottom.
The River Bandits poured in the runs during the 7th inning of the 4th game in this opening series. A combination of fine hitting, good base running, mixed in with a Cougar throwing error, the River Bandits scored 5 runs on 3 hits, and 2 stolen bases to pull them ahead and stay ahead for the win 7-3. Tanner Mathis and Elkins each had 2 hits, while Brett Phillips and Brian Holberton both had 2 RBIs. Mathis, Phillips, and Holberton came to the River Bandits from Greeneville Astros from the Rookie Appalachian League.
The River Bandits took Monday off, but will go again tonight, April 8, for a road series in Michigan against the Lansing Lugnuts. Game time for all 3 games will be 6:05pm. Go River Bandits!