It’s not often a baseball player who had just finished an 0-for-5 game at the plate finds himself surrounded by celebrating teammates at first base.
But, Sunday was one of those days for Parker Bates of the Quad Cities River Bandits.
Bates reached first on a wild pitch after striking out on a 3-2 fastball with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, bringing home Morgan McCullough with the deciding run in a 2-1 Class A Midwest League victory over South Bend at Modern Woodmen Park.
“Baseball can be a weird game,’’ Bates said following the walk-off strikeout that gave Quad Cities its fifth win in its last seven games.
The River Bandits carried the 1-0 lead they took in the second inning into the top of the ninth before a wild pitch between consecutive two-out singles positioned the Cubs’ Owen Caissie to tie the game on a base hit to center by Pablo Aliendo.
McCullough opened the bottom half of the inning with a single to left.
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He was still on first following a pair of fly outs before advancing to third following back-to-back walks drawn by Burle Dixon and Herard Gonzalez that extended the game.
Fed a steady stream of fastballs in the upper 90s and sliders by Eduarniel Nunez, Bates then also worked the count full.
“It was a pressure situation, full count, runners moving. I felt confident, had a plan,’’ Bates said. “I missed the ball and stood there for a quick second. But I heard (McCullough) yelling, ‘Run! Run!’ and I took off. If he hadn’t yelled, I don’t know if I would made it to first before the throw.’’
But he did, and the River Bandits discovered a new way to win.
“Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to have a little luck on your side. We were probably due for a little of that. Two runs on three hits and a win, we’ll take it,’’ Quad Cities manager Brooks Conrad said. “And Parker, he’s had an interesting few games, a lot he’ll remember forever.’’
It was Bates who was brought in from left field to pitch in the top of the ninth inning Friday, recorded the final two outs and then belted a two-run homer in the bottom half of the inning.
“This has been the weirdest week I’ve ever had in baseball,’’ Bates said.
What wasn’t weird was the way the River Bandits went about positioning themselves to earn the win.
A crowd of 3,102 watched pitching and defense dominate throughout a game in which the River Bandits mustered only three hits.
Quad Cities pitchers Patrick Halligan, Jack Aldrich and Anderson Paulino surrendered 10 hits but teamed up to strike out eight Cubs and did not walk a batter in a performance complemented by an error-free defensive effort.
“The hits were few and far between, but our pitchers picked us up,’’ Conrad said. “The past two weeks, our pitchers have taken steps forward and are doing what we need them to do. Halligan, Aldrich, Paulino, proud of the way they pounded the zone, great work.’’
Caissie and Aliendo gave Quad Cities pitchers the majority of their problems, combining for seven of South Bend’s 10 hits.
Halligan worked around six hits during a 5.2-inning start and worked with a 1-0 lead after a sacrifice fly by Juan Carlos Negret in the second inning drove in Kale Emshoff, who had reached on a leadoff double.
The River Bandits didn’t manage another hit until Gonzalez singled with one out in the fifth, the last base hit Quad Cities collected until McCullough opened the ninth with a single.
“I felt like we put some good swings on the ball. We just got under a few them and had a lot of fly-ball outs,’’ Conrad said. “The pitchers, they kept us in there today and the defense, it gave us a chance.’’