If the Traverse City Beach Bums only had to play five-inning games against the River City Rascals this season, the team battling for first place in the Frontier League East Division standings would be undefeated.
But since the nation's top independent baseball league plays by the standard nine-inning rules, and River City has shown a penchant for mounting big comebacks against Traverse City this season, the Beach Bums have yet to win a single game when meeting up against the Rascals in 2013.
That trend continued Wednesday night at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon, when the visiting Beach Bums jumped out to a 5-0 lead after three innings and led going into the sixth for the fifth time in five games against the Rascals this season, only to have River City score six times in that sixth inning to take the lead in what eventually became a thrilling 6-5 win for the home team.
On Tuesday night, Traverse City led 5-3 going into the sixth inning, but River City sent 10 men to the plate and scored five times in the bottom of the seventh to pull off an 8-5 victory.
Nearly the same thing happened on Wednesday, as the Rascals again sent 10 men to the plate and again benefitted from some sloppy play the Beach Bums, which included an error and two wild pitches that helped further the River City cause.
On Tuesday, the big blow was a bases-clearing double by designated hitter Sean Borman, which followed run-scoring singles by Danny Canela and Evan Crawford and a catcher's interference call against Traverse City.
Wednesday night, River City's rally began with a booming three-run homer by Canela (his 11th of the season), and then re-ignited thanks to a hit by Crawford.
The Rascals were then able to push two runs across to tie the score on two sacrifice bunts (one that was mishandled by the Beach Bums) and a sacrifice fly.
The home team then got what proved to be the game-winning run on a clutch, line-drive double off the bat of center fielder Curran Redal.
Second baseman Will Block scored that game-winning run, after reaching on the muffed bunt earlier in the inning.
Starting pitcher Drew Benes couldn't get past the third inning, and was pulled before even recording an out in that frame, after giving up all five Traverse City runs on six hits and two walks.
Utility starter Ray Hanson came in to relieve Benes, and was simply spectacular, lasting five innings for the Rascals without giving up a hit.
In fact, only one Beach Bum batter even reached base against Hanson (3-1), who picked the win after striking out eight and walking only one.
Shaw gave up a leadoff hit to Traverse City's Scott Woodward, but he then struck out Chris Cowell, and got a double-play all against speedy leadoff man Ryan Still to end the game.
Both the Grizzlies and Miners lost on Wednesday, allowing River City to inch just a bit closer in the playoff hunt.
Traverse City (47-36) is one game ahead of Gateway and Southern Illinois for the league's No. 3 playoff spot (and three games behind the Lake Erie Crushers for the best overall record in the East).
The Rascals and Beach Bums will play their final meeting of the season (unless both clubs make the playoffs), Thursday night at T.R. Hughes, with Tommy Mendoza (4-6) getting the start for River City, and Frontier League wins leader Scott Dunn (14-1) doing the same for Traverse City.
RIVER CITY RASCALS REMAINING SCHEDULE
August 22 vs. Traverse City Beach Bums .......... 7:05 p.m.
August 23 vs. Washington Wild Things ............ 7:05 p.m.
August 24 vs. Washington Wild Things ............ 7:05 p.m.
August 25 vs. Washington Wild Things ............ 6:05 p.m.
August 27 at Rockford Aviators .................. 7:05 p.m.
August 28 at Rockford Aviators .................. 7:05 p.m.
August 29 at Rockford Aviators .................. 7:05 p.m.
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.