BANDITS 3, COUGARS 2
DAVENPORT — Quad Cities inched closer to a Midwest League playoff berth Saturday night, but the champagne celebration will have to wait.
The River Bandits did their part, eliminating Kane County from first-half title contention in the Western Division with a 3-2 win over the Cougars at Modern Woodmen Park.
But, a ninth-inning grand slam at Peoria kept Cedar Rapids alive in the chase with a 7-6 win. The Kernels are 7.5 games behind Quad Cities with eight to play in the first half.
Burlington remains in second place, 5.5 games behind a River Bandits team which now has a magic number of one to clinch a playoff spot and three to win the division.
“We’ve still got work to do, but we’ve done a lot of good things to put ourselves in a good position,’’ Quad Cities infielder David Hensley said. “Given everything we’ve been through, having the chance to clinch anything early would mean a lot.’’
Saturday’s game was just the 12th of a 38-20 season that Quad Cities has been able to play because flood-related issues surrounding its home ballpark.
Quad Cities never trailed, bunching together the only four hits allowed by Kane County starter Justin Lewis with two outs in the bottom of the second inning to score twice.
Hensley deposited the River Bandits’ first hit of the game over the fence in right.
“I was able to put a good swing on the ball and when you hit the ball hard, sometimes good things happen,’’ Hensley said. “It’s always good to get an early lead and to put a couple of runs up for our pitchers to work with was big. It always is the way they’re throwing the ball.’’
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His fourth blast of the season preceded a hit by Trey Dawson, who singled to center off of his college teammate at Kentucky.
An infield single by Michael Wielansky followed by a run-scoring single to left by Ross Adolph gave Quad Cities a lead the Cougars were unable to catch.
An insurance run collected by the River Bandits in the sixth inning proved valuable.
Ruben Castro scored what proved to be the game-winning run following a chopper to second by Cesar Salazar after opening the inning with a single.
Castro jarred the ball out of the mitt of catcher Daniel Wasinger as he slid across the plate following a throw home by KeShawn Lynch from the grass in front of the second-base bag, giving Quad Cities a 3-1 lead.
That margin was enough for the River Bandits to withstand a solo homer by the Cougars’ Alek Thomas in the top of the seventh, the only hit allowed by reliever Humberto Castellanos on his way to a three-inning save.
River Bandits starter Brett Daniels scattered eight hits over a six-inning start, but surrendered just one walk and struck out nine batters to keep Kane County off the board most of the night while moving to 3-3 on the year.
The Cougars did slice the Quad Cities lead in half in the top of the fifth, ending a string of 25 consecutive innings of scoreless work by River Bandits pitchers dating to the sixth inning of a game at Peoria on Wednesday.
Eduardo Diaz pulled the Cougars within a 2-1 score, scoring Tra Holmes when he drove a sacrifice fly to left.
Holmes beat out a slow-rolling grounder to third to open the inning and advanced on a single to right by KeShawn Lynch.